Sunday, September 04, 2011

Expensive Diversions

Expensive Diversions

I never really realised how expensive my running pastime was until I restricted myself to a very limited budget.  I run.  I'm training for a marathon.  I assumed that after covering the biggest training expense, the shoes, running would be pretty cheap.  

One word:  hydration.

I blew 9,700 shillings today on rehydration/refueling alone.  Then there was the expense of getting from the ending point of my 21km run back home.  I did public transport, took a taxi, and that cost me an additional 1,000.  So just over 10,000 shillings, my maximum daily budget, was spent before midday today.

This really got me thinking.  If I'm spending this much money on simply keeping myself healthily hydrated, how is the average teacher in Uganda able to keep a healthy diet?  There is a BIG difference between filling one's belly and being properly nourished.

In only the four days I've been conducting this experiment, I've caught myself cutting back on or skipping meals entirely in order to keep my daily expenses low.  I'm discovering that it is exceptionally difficult, if not next to impossible, to eat adequately on the salary that the teachers are currently earning.

So, it's been reported in the paper that "the government, beginning tomorrow, will use its head teachers to roll-call all its teacher" and that absent teacher are to be punished.  But who's going to roll-call the head teachers?  From my own experience, I'd expect it to be more likely to not encounter a head teacher at school than there be absent teachers.  I worked at a school where the deputy head teacher pretty much only showed up on the first day of school and never appeared again, yet he still drew his salary every month.  There was another school I worked with where the head mistress missed 13 out of 20 school days, repeatedly.  I won't deny absenteeism of teachers also being a problem.  However, many times when I'd discover the whereabouts of teachers who was not at school, I'd find them digging in a garden.  Hmmm...  I wonder why?

I must be honest and confess that I splurged tonight.  My friend, Barbarah, is in town from Malawi.  I've not seen her in over a year.  Another friend from Uganda who lives in the US is also in town, so we all got together at Katja's Kitchen in Bugolobi.  How could we not, right?  Yeah, my budget for the next week is ruined.  I spent 25,000 on my meal and drinks.  Yikes!

A summary of today's expenses:

9,700 UGX for hydration
1,000 UGX towards transportation
25,000 UGX for dinner splurge
6,300 UGX for milk and tomatoes

Total:  42,000 UGX

Remaining with 214,600 UGX

Tip for those low on cash flow:  stay away from restaurants of any form.

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