By Frieda Park
When we walked into the bus yard on Friday morning, we weren’t quite sure what we were getting into. As we sat in our tiny bus seats waiting to leave the bus yard (buses in Uganda don’t leave at a specific time, they leave when the bus is full) we saw an informal economy operating in full force. Men and women carrying everything from fruit to shoes to lamps, wallets, belts and soccer balls boarded our bus looking for that eager customer who just happened to be in search of a new pair of kicks or some fruit for the long ride. We had decided to take public transportation instead of a private car to see the way the typical Ugandan (and possible Solar Sister customers) traveled. When we finally took off we learned that the trip we thought would take three hours would indeed not drop off us off at our final destination, Ruhanga (a small village in Southwest Uganda), until after hour six!
During the trip, we collectively battled for space, assisted women with their children, had sticks of grilled meat and bananas thrust through windows into our faces, smelled an array of body odors, passed through three distinct terrains, crossed the line of the equator and even saw zebras roaming the countryside. We were headed on this seemingly endless journey to meet with the Solar Sister Entrepreneurs of Ruhanga to explore their successes and challenges they’ve faced in selling solar lamps to their communities.
Once we clambered down from the bus on the side of the road, exhausted and slightly smelly ourselves, we were greeted with a delicious lunch of lentils and rice and a group of women eager to tell us their stories. From this visit we were able to gain valuable knowledge that will help us create our Recruiting and Training plan for Solar Sister, which is the reason we are in Uganda.
The evening ended with visits to the women’s homes to see the solar lamps in use, which was an adventure in and of itself; climbing up hills through banana plantations to their homes, which have no electricity, and only solar lamps to guide our way. It really brought home why we are here and the purpose of the product we were promoting.
The next morning we awoke early for a quick hike up to the top of a nearby hill. We then jaunted down the hill and resumed our place at the side of the road, awaiting the passing of another bus for the seven hour bus ride back into Kampala.