Thursday, 5 February 2009

Work stuff.....

Business at the hotel has been very quiet the last fews weeks, this is due in part to the normal January slump that most businesses face but also because the new academic year for primary and secondary schools in Uganda started last Monday. As most good schools are fee paying, this means Ugandan parents have quite hefty bills at this time of year, not just for fees but also for uniforms, text books and all sorts of other school materials. Many Ugandans send their children to boarding schools that are often some distance from their homes and they have to provide mattresses, bed linen etc.
The hotel is expecting a group of 40 teachers from Bristol in mid-Feb. The teachers have formed a collaborative educational partnership with schools and teachers here in Masindi - they will be here for a week visiting local schools and carrying out training workshops. There are also some other smaller groups staying in the hotel, so hopefully business will pick up during the latter part of February and early March.
Staff morale is quite low at the moment, as many of them have not been paid for quite some time, some are owed salaries since September of last year. It's really difficult for me to imagine what it's like to work and not get paid and to still be able to survive, though many are really struggling at the moment to pay their rent and to buy basic neccessities. The majority of staff seem to survive on very little money - most will only have one meal a day (quite normal in Uganda and it tends to be quantity over nutritional value), though those with families also face the problem of how to pay school fees. Unfortunately there is little that I can do to help them, other than trying to make their working environment a good one, as I'm not involved in the financial side of the business. Some have considered leaving but there are few other jobs about.
Having said that, I'm enjoying working with the staff, they are all really nice people and have been very welcoming towards me. I'm trying to make sure that I have regular meetings with the staff in each department and the heads of departments - this was introduced in the past but had fallen by the way side. I organised a meeting with the restaurant staff last week to talk through a number of issues with them and to get their opinions on how the restaurant was functioning. I was surprised at the end of it how many staff thanked me and since then many have come up to me to say 'well done', when I ask for what, they say for what I'm doing at the hotel! They really seem to appreciate the fact that someone is asking how they feel about things and also that time is being invested in them - they are only small gestures but they seem to be having a positive effect.
I've attached some photos of the staff and the hotel below.
This is Milly - she's the Head Pantrymaid (that's the term used here for kitchen assistant) - she's an absolute star! She helps out in the kitchen doing basic prep, making fresh fruit juice, cooking the staff meals and doing the cleaning in the kitchen. She greets me every day with 'how is you?' 'how was the night?' (meaning how was your evening) 'how is the home?'
Rose (waitress) and Grace (gift shopp assistant) - they fell about laughing when I told them to say 'cheese'..... they thought it was hilarious! But as you can see it worked!! Me, Sarah (she works in the bar), Mariam and Silvia (they are both waitresses)

The girls are joined by Francis who's works as a waiter
The 'Made in Uganda Gift Shop'
Seating area in the garden with a thatched 'banda' (African-style self-contained cottages) in the background - I stayed in this one for a week before I moved into my house. There are 17 bandas in total (singles, doubles and twins) and they are all equipped with electric fans, mosquito nets, solar-powered hot water and showers.
There are two bandas like this one in the garden - they tend to be quite cool and provide an escape from the sun
The veranda (where most customers tend to eat), this leads into the bar area. There is a small dining room to the right - it tends to be used mostly by Ugandan customers, but also for functions, meetings and workshops
This tent completely collapsed 2 weeks ago as a result of a really fierce storm that only lasted about 30 minutes but did quite a bit of damage.The cash office, reception and managers office are all in the white building in the background.

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