Being a guide in my own city


Recently, I was invited to go and discover my own city of Rotterdam with 3 Ugandans, two men and a woman. These 3 people were in the Netherlands because the city of Utrecht is involved in a beautiful project.

1. My guests from Uganda



The average age in Uganda is 16 years!! (No typing error). The country has had tough times, but since a while, things are going a lot better with this country. The economy is stably growing at 5.5% per year. But the population is also growing fast. The country is aware that it needs to think carefully about how such rapid population growth can be steered into the right direction.

That is why local authorities have chosen a square kilometer to experiment with sustainable initiatives like sustainable energy, mobility, treatment of waste, infrastructure and so on. The municipality of Utrecht, companies and the University of Utrecht partner and share the knowledge that is available with their Ugandan colleagues.

With this background, we went to explore Rotterdam together with Geoffrey (engineer), Richard (economist), Ruth (urban planner), Etienne (working at the municipality of Utrecht), Noëlla (his sister and my friend) and myself.

2. Being a city guide: always take care of the food



Upon arrival, they started at the first architectural masterpiece, the shiny Central Station of Rotterdam. The area around Central Station is diverse. We went to the Schieblock, an old building where start-ups and especially creative independents have created a workplace. Urban agriculture takes place on the roof of this building.

More information:

Uganda is 7 times the size of the Netherlands and only 2.4 times as many people live there, so there is enough room for agriculture on the ground. However, a lot of concrete, dense building gives a lot of heat and a roof field can help to ensure cooling.

3. Being a city guide: show local innovation to your guests



A short distance later, we arrived at the water square (Benthemplein). This square contains a number of gullies and 'pits'. In one of these pits a basketball court was created where the pupils of the surrounding schools of the square can play basketball. In heavy rainfall, this square fills up with water but it is ensured that the water is drained away properly. This prevents flooding in undesirable places. There is a webcam, so check it out when it rains: Webcam Benthem square

Uganda also has to deal with heavy rainfall. The area where the market is happens to get filled up with water often. Who knows, maybe the Rotterdam water plaza gave them ideas?

There is a nice gadget by the water square: a bench of solar panels. There are 2 USB inputs on both sides so that you can charge your phone (or something else) with solar energy. My guests thought it would be great to have such benches in their market. They were afraid that they needed a lot of them :-). We do not differ on this point in the Netherlands :-).

4. Food from all over the world at the Market Hall



We decided to have lunch in our market: on top of one of the stalls in the Market Hall. This is another architectural masterpiece where living and the market are combined very nicely. As in many countries, our guests prefer to eat warm at noon. So no Dutch cheese sandwich. We ended up at an Asian wok restaurant. Ugandans and Dutchmen ate with chopsticks. Another agreement: we both found it tricky J.

During lunch we spoke about our children. There are public and private schools in Uganda. We hardly know that in the Netherlands. We mostly just have public schools. Richard and Geoffrey’s children have to be in the bus at 5.30 am, to be at school at 8:30 am. Ruth’s children attended a boarding school. They only came home once every 2-3 months. But Ruth said if they miss me and they want me to come over, I'll go to school right away. A discussion arose whether it would be good to let children suffer, to make them tough or that it would be better to parent them more. A well-known discussion that takes place in both cultures and that all generations have dealt with differently and will probably continue to do.

5. Shopping

Then it was time to for some shopping. Naturally, the prices are much lower in Uganda than in the Netherlands, but also the quality of most of the products. Nevertheless, we have found a number of acceptably priced stores. Together with Ruth, I picked out shoes. We agreed! We found the same shoes beautiful! Ruth asked, why do you have so much suede? With us it is very dusty, shoes made of smooth material are much more practical.

6. Being a city guide: visit Rotterdam Discovery



After a large amount of purchases for home, including an inflatable pool for all families (I am sure they also score points for that in Uganda), we went to the Tourist Information at the Schielandhuis. The nice thing about this tourist information is that they have an interactive film about the Rotterdam from before the Second World War, after the bombing, the reconstruction and the future plans. You can see that many more people lived in the city before the war and that during the reconstruction it was decided that Rotterdam should become a working city. People lived in the suburbs. That changed a few years ago in Rotterdam and now you see a lot of new housing construction coming back to the city. In the basement of the tourist information is a beautiful model with the tall buildings of Rotterdam. There are also models of a number of (very) tall buildings in the world and so you can see that the high buildings of Rotterdam are still very low. A must do in Rotterdam: explore Rotterdam Discovery in the historical Schielandshuis on Coolsingel.

7. Rotterdam river to the port of Rotterdam

The countries of South-Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Congo-Kinshasa are located around Uganda. Uganda lies partly on the Victoria Lake (the largest lake in Africa), but is therefore not located by the sea. That is why we ended the day at the other side of the Erasmus Bridge on the quay of the Maas with a view of passing ships.

It was wonderful to have such a day in your own city shared with foreign guests. I look at my own city of Rotterdam with different eyes, less obvious, more proud.

Written by Amber (founder 2 glimpse) from Rotterdam


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