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Hi there, this is Arne Fiehl from BOARDSTEIN!
This year I celebrated Easter at a very exceptional place. Well, I didn`t really celebrate, for me there`s nothing to celebrate rather than having another day off after that Sunday. Anyway, together with me mates Gabu and Kiki and our Rasta-bro Wasswa I travelled to his homeplace, a small village near Kisoro which is a tiny town in the most south west corner of Uganda next to Ruanda and Kongo. In Central Africa it doesn`t get any more central than that and not much closer to the Equator either. And that is pretty much the cradle of humanity if you were to believe scientists, and as we know especially in these times nowadays, we should believe them more than ever. In any case this is where the misery we call humanity is supposed to have started.
So what had me brought there to this special place? The answer is just as fascinating as simple: skateboarding. Maybe at this point for better explanation shortly the stats of my career: I come from the most northern part of Germany, am 45 years of age at this point and since 33 summers probably that what you would call a skateboarder. From 2000 to 2009 I was responsible for BOARDSTEIN skatemagazine and since then I have been building concrete skateparks. And if everything keeps on working fine for me, I will finish project number 100 somewhen this year (Cheers to 100 Ramps in India at this point!).
Through my jobs just like with my private life I travelled the whole world for the last three decades and have been to weird and/or historic places quite a bit before last weekend. At the moment we`re busy together with Skate-Aid and the Uganda Skateboard Union to extend the already existing skatepark in the capital Kampala with a bowl, and by doing so we`re gonna teach the locals the special craft of building concrete skateparks and leave them tools and trowels afterwards. So in the future they can build more ramps and projects on their own. To me that feels like real and also lived development assistance.
I`ve been on quite a few similar projects in exotic countries before, but all in all my motivation for that is always the same as if I would be building in Germany or Europe. Because I know about the special powers skateboarding has to offer. For this I am the best example myself, having started in 1989 in a tiny village with 50 inhabitants and now being here in this sick ass mega city called Kampala, capital of Uganda. One of the things that`s really special about us skateboarders is the search for new spots and friends and therefor a lust - you might even call it an addiction - for trips and travels, which on the other hand makes you strong, mature and wise. In any case for me travelling is the best form of education, it`s just way more practical than theory.
And without a doubt skateboarding is a key to the world, especially in the year 2021 where you can find it in the most remote corners of the planet, where you would never expect to meet skateboarders. I know from my own experience that as a skater you will find open doors anywhere you go in this world as long as there are fellow skaters. When there might be differences or even conflicts between local scenes, on an international level skaters stick together and help each other. My travels have proven that many times just as the fact that there`re associations and NGO`s like Skate-Aid with which skaters help other skaters out without hesitation. And that is something that probably differs from all other sports and it is one of the reasons I have a hard time calling skateboarding a sport at all.
And with building skateparks I wanna help and give the opportunity to other people - especially younger ones, of course - to be infected by this positive virus, no matter in which corner of the world. And in a country like Uganda, which is one of the poorest on the planet, which becomes obvious once you leave our hostel in the borough aka slum of Kitintale and walk the streets, this is naturally especially needed. Here the kids and youth have nothing that might offer some change of every day’s struggles or a place to enjoy life in a creative way. Through skateboarding I have friends everywhere on this planet, and who can really claim that? From the people I know only a few skateboarders...
Thank you, skateboarding, I will be forever grateful and try to spread your spirit as long as I can!
Arne Fiehl vom BOARDSTEIN