Goodbye Uganda

The last day at the office: I would like to give a small résumé of my time at the Goethe-Zentrum Kampala/ Ugandan German Cultural Society (GZK/ UGCS) – what an awkwardly long name for what is usually referred to as the “Goethe”, “UGCS”, the “German Cultural Centre” or even, and quite inadequately, the “German school” (also a boda driver once told me the “German whatever”).  And however prestigious the Goethe bit of the name may be, it gives us the (utterly wrong) image of moneyed muzungus.

But what a great time I had at the German whatever and, more generally, in Kampala. I found great work that challenged me, and a committed team with a pregnant director who wouldn’t stop working until actually giving birth. A lot of writing, editorial work, translation and communication was at the core of my everyday life for the last couple of months, my personal highlights being clearly the management of the LaBa! Arts Festival’s music stage, of the visual arts event CAPTURING MOVEMENTS in the industrial area of Kampala, and a German-speaking theatre group featuring Höhner, Franz Schubert, and Edda Moser. With Die Karawane zieht weiter playing when multi-billionaire Claire is walking away with her servants in Dürrenmatt’s famous The Visit, I could realize that sort of grotesque idea that would clearly be laughed at as both camp and cheap in most contexts in Germany.

I learned that in Uganda everything works out in the end. I was close to a heart attack when we couldn’t even have a proper sound check on the day before the festival. I scheduled it for 5 pm, hoping the artists would come around by 6, but all of them showed up at individually chosen times between 5:30 and 9, at which point most of the earlier ones had left. This is what even Ugandans call African time, with a smile, a handclap and a strange high-frequency sigh as if fainting, but it seems many refuse to understand the sheer necessity of being on time in certain situations. We did have a beautiful show in the end with the six hours stage program finishing seven minutes late German time, of which I am massively proud. We had already started cancelling the visual arts event Capturing Movements “for unforeseen external circumstances” the night before it took place when in the very last minute a VIP friend promised to sort it out (“Let me make one more phone call.”). After two days in a number of weird offices, posh cars and police vans the event took place without anyone noticing how much trouble we had with this. And we were very happy.

Last day at the office

An internship at the German whatever is more than a full-time job. Work starts between 9 and 10 am and my flat-mate thought it appropriate to shout “you are here” when she found me smiling on our veranda at 6:30 pm last week. Also the weekends can be busy. Just for the record: I do not like the so-called Deutschsprachiger Kindersamstag. This is why I cannot believe there are so many other things worth writing about apart from work. There is a video shoot with Eric, Isa, and Ife resulting in a painful lumbago, there is our pregnant watchbitch Tilda giving birth to five living puppies despite her hunger (and us rescuing them after four of them had fallen into a latrine filled with human faeces), there is Vroni who I will always remember doing Bavarian sign-language for her deaf Iraqi refugee boyfriend on Skype, there are interviews with the most inspiring transgender woman Beyonce in a society where trans-sexuality is not even a word, there is my survival of sitting on a motorbike without a helmet, daily, in an African capital. There is an amazing safari with all those animals and pure nature that – scarily enough – seems unnaturally beautiful, a trip to Rwanda to visit a Norwegian friend, there are lonesome canoe trips on the mystical Lake Bunyonyi, a chicken underneath my bag, there are debates about marital rape with medicine students (“Once you’ve started f***, you cannot stop!”), creepy fundraising parties with a colonialist touch (to put it nicely), sleeping and money borrowing guards, acid sprinkling flies, irresponsible landlords and their dying-from-hunger brothers. There is passion fruit, rolex (roll-eggs), avocado and soy porridge, Ethiopian food and the phenomenon of me being able to invite people for dinner. There is leopard cloth and okay please, ersma, mannequins and the Nile. There is also Mark Lauren’s fitness bible, of course.

I can’t even differentiate between the plus side and the downside in many cases – maybe except for the constant exposure of either Ugandan English or weird English with over-the-top Southern German accents that I had personally thought existed only in very old and cartoonesquely Bavarian people – but no, everything here seems to belong on the plus side in a funny way, and to me, this comes as surprise. Goodbye, Uganda.



  1. Hallo Denis,
    It is Moses Lutaaya hope you remember me,from „THEATA“. Thank you so much for every singgle effort you put in the that mavelous play, and other events you laid your ha nds on, like the Laba!!!
    Personally I have got a lesson to learn in your stay here in Uganda. You are not any an incredible and approachable person but also understanding and talented not to mention you hardwork. We had great time with you. Yours sincerely Moses Lutaaya from Makerere University German club.

  2. Dennis Dennis….immer so viel ueber Uganda zu sagen…it was nice knowing you. you were a good person, we shall miss you!!!!!!!

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