Ron Smit's Blog
This picture was taken a few minutes ago, in the backyard of "Crane House", the house rented by Swedish Geological AB as a guest house to accommodate the consultants who travel to Uganda from time to time, for participation in the various projects managed by SGAB.
The picture shows the bright sunshine that I've enjoyed today, pity I couldn't share it with anybody. But it's been a warm, relaxing day, with a spot of work, and bit of reading in the sun, and a bit of ODI cricket (SA vs. India) on TV. A good day to prepare for a busy week.
Today has been yet another day away from my wife and family. It's been a reasonable enough day here in Entebbe, had a good lunch at 4 Points, watched some quite good rugby on TV, well, in between the power interruptions, anyway. Tomorrow will be another day alone in our guesthouse here. I'll probably do some report writing, some e-mailing and some budget reconciliations inbetween watching SA and India play ODI cricket. That is, if we have electricity...
But Marina and I do ask each other the question: "Why do we do this?" each time that we are separated like this. Fair enough, it will be great when she comes here early in March, it will be good when she works/trains in the hospital here, and it will be great fun when we take a touristic trip to other parts of Uganda.
But the real answer to the question is not so simple. Of course I get paid to do my work. I think I do my work well, and I do get paid well. But the major reason for doing this work, just HAS to be the fact that it's a good and useful thing to do. And while I have frequently argued that we do make a difference with our projects, however small, I sometimes still hope that I can find a way to make more of a difference. I see situations, institutions, whatever, that really require changing, and I wish I could enable or even influence such change faster and to a greater extent.
Am I too much of an idealist? Never thought I was. And I also want to do good for myself and my family, of course.
Well, I'll just keep looking while I do my current projects as well as I can, and while I try to influence the people that I work with, as much as possible.
I am often inspired by small items of text here and there, and experienced one such moment a few days ago when I travelled with KLM from Schiphol (Amsterdam) to Entebbe, in Uganda. KLM gave us a small "dinner" snack, which these days comes in a coloured box, carrying a bit of motivational text. Here is the latest bit of "wisdom", apparently written by someone called Flora Whittemore:
With additional inspiration provided by a small can of Heineken, I found myself not completely agreeing with Flora, whoever she may be. It may be true that the choices we make in life affect the directions we take, but I've found many of these choices to have been almost random in my own life. Certainly not planned in any strategic sense. And I may have been pushed or pulled through a door or two... If I look at my career (and my life) to date, it's almost impossible to compare it with my expectations at the time I graduated!
No, I think our lives are more determined by what we do once we have gone through these doors, and even more importantly, HOW we do it. While I was thinking along those lines, high in the air over Africa, I took inspiration from my family: Reinhardt, who won an award at his recent graduation because of his positive attitude, and his very wide and active involvement with the Hotelschool The Hague, it's students and staff. Quintin, whose approach to life and everything he does in it can only be described as super-enthusiastic! And Marcel, who is enjoying his sports science study, while competing flat-out in swimmining competitions. All three of them are seen by just about everybody as nice guys, real friends. Where did they get this approach? Well, Marina is very much the same, she doesn't do anything half-way either! As for myself, I see myself as much more of a thinker than a doer, pretty tentative at times.
So here is a decision: I plan to walk through the door marked with "Action!", following in the positive footsteps of my family.
With the final version of the Inception Report completed and submitted (having addressed comments on the draft version from the client), the Inception Phase of the mining cadastre design project is officially completed.
At the same time, we have started the work in the Diagnostic Phase, assessing the current manual cadastral system, with respect to the legal and regulatory framework, the procedures and the equipment levels at the client.
So, with all that work in progress, with the very able assistance of very experienced colleagues, harking from countries like Sweden, the UK, South Africa, and even Abu Dhabi, I've left Uganda for another stint of a couple of weeks at home. I'll continue to work with the Uganda project from home, but I'm also enjoying the time home with Marina, and the opportunity to help on various business- and technology-related issues for the midwifery practice co-owned by her. They've just moved from temporary accommodation to newly-built permanent consulting rooms, very exciting!
The next thing to look forward to, is our planned trip to Newcastle and Edinburgh in about a week's time. Only for a few days, but it should be great.
It's been a very busy week, with quite a bit of progress:
We've received the client's comments on our Inception Report and we're busy working the required changes (quite small) into a final draft report. We've had meetings with team members (and members of other teams) to discuss the interactions between Ugandan mining and other legislation, such as it relates to mining cadastre.
A follow-up visit to the Mines Division of the DGSM, where we saw copies of existing mineral rights (Exploration, Location and Retention Licences, a Mining Lease) confirmed our view that the (currently paper-based) cadastre system is working predictably and steadily, a good basis to work from in our own Project.
Yesterday, I visited the Botanical Gardens here in Entebbe, saw many interesting plant and bird species, as well as Colobus and Vervet Monkeys. A nice view over Lake Victoria too.
The afternoon was even better when we could watch the next Tri-Nations rugby game on TV, with the Springboks beating the Wallabies 32-25 in Perth!
Earlier today, I spent some time in the pool and by the poolside at the Imperial Resort Beach Hotel (locally known as the Blue Hotel due to the colour of the main building), with a hamburger lunch at the Mango Bar afterwards. Pretty nice, even though I had to sit at the bar under the thatched roof due to heavy rain.
Now to bed, to be ready for the next week...
While we await the client's comments on our draft Inception Report (overdue by 10 days), I'm proceeding with rescheduling (yet again...) of the project schedule. There are some international study tours and some national workshops in our project, all of these are affected by the availabilities and wishes of various officials. Hence rescheduled dates, affecting the delivery dates of our reports (and the submission dates of invoices...).
But - it's nice to be back in Entebbe, working with pleasant people. By tonight, I will also have almost all of the project team in the country, at the same time, for the first time.
Well, the official draft version of the Inception Report was submitted to the client here today. Fortunately it contains lots of good work from colleagues in addition to some appendices with amended schedules and budgets, etc. that I put together and edited from previous versions. Good to work with people who deliver. Good to be able to grab a template report from another project, as well.
Well, I arrived back in Entebbe again this evening, after a rather pleasant flight. Pity that work schedules required me to travel today, since it's Reinhardt's 26th birthday, and Marina and the boys are all in Brussels celebrating. I guess they are out somewhere, they are not responding to my sms's anyway... Ah well, all those nice beers... even Marina will probably have a Kriek, I'm guessing!
Tomorrow starts some further work to finalise the Inception Report, although I see that management would like to see some financial scheduling details changed in there. Then Hakan arrives in the evening, and we can look forward to some more long-term, strategic discussions over the rest of the week, culminating in a full day's session discussing all that at a hotel between Entebbe and Kampala. Hakan, Kalle, Chris and I. Let's hope that we can make it a positive and useful experience...
Yesterday evening, I was pondering the content for this post while sitting under a huge tree in the extensive gardens of the Imperial Resort Beach Hotel, in Entebbe, Uganda. With a cold Nile Special (subtitled as a "True Reward from the Source" on the label) in front of me and surrounded by pleasant sounds on the shore of Lake Victoria.
Dusk was creeping over the lake, and the sound of little waves lapping on the beach mingled with talking and laughing voices, the chirping of insects and birds in the trees, all carried on a light rustle of wind moving through the leaves far above me. The cynic in me (or possibly the experienced traveller in Africa...) expected to see prostitutes descending on a fresh target, but fortunately I saw none. I expect they must be kept outside by hotel security. Even mosquitoes seemed to be hunting elsewhere, making the evening a very pleasant one. Pity I wasn't sharing it with Marina, who was back in Europe, travelling to Dusseldorf with her sister, and preparing to collect our youngest son from the airport there today.
I've been on site in Entebbe, Uganda for almost exactly one working week now, and have initiated the Inception Phase of the Mining Cadastre Design and Registry project. More details about that in the "Projects" section, if you are interested.
Entebbe is a very pleasant place, appears to have one of the best climates in Africa, or possibly the world, so far as I can determine. Warm, almost tropical in the daytime, cools down at night, slight breeze off Lake Victoria, lots of birds in evidence, not only to be heard, but pretty visible as well. Then the place is just about on the equator, so there is really no summer or winter to speak of, but I still need to experience the "rainy season". So far, we've had a few thunder storms, and a morning of quite heavy rain, followed by brilliant sunshine within 30 minutes afterwards. Great.So far my contacts with people at the client side (DGSM) have been pretty positive and I look forward to a good working relationship with them, hoping to achieve the same level of cooperation (or even better) than I got from Minerals Commission in Ghana. Time will tell, I guess.