Within a few days of arriving to Uganda, Kristen (the project coordinator for Shanti, who will be working on the ground here until next September) made a point of sitting down with me to explain the types of projects she had imagined I could work on during my five month placement. One of the things I was most pleased to hear was that I’ll have the opportunity to help design and run projects and workshops for each of the different groups that the maternity and learning centre works with. This week Vanessa and I were busy revamping the manual for the teen girls program, a six day workshop we’re leading that teaches young women between 12 and 18 about health, nutrition, exercise, HIV, and menstruation.
Seeing as how we usually try to be back at the volunteer house by nightfall, most of our evenings around here consist of making meals, using the computer, reading, and/or talking to each other. The other night, however, Ali, one of the other volunteers, stayed at our place. She normally lives in a nearby town with her boyfriend, Dye, who is in Uganda teaching physical education classes with a Peace Corps-type group from Japan. When Kristen heard that we’d be having a houseguest, she suggested having a good old-fashioned “girls night”. So we all dutifully donned our pyjamas and submitted ourselves to an evening of facials and movie-watching.
Having sat down to write about life in Kasana, it seems only fitting that our frequent power outages would keep me from being able to actually post this entry to the blog. We’ve had only limited stretches with power over the last few days, so computer usage has been more or less reserved to Shanti-related projects. (My apologies for the long delay between posts! I was writing, but had no way to get it online…) Apparently, though power outages are not at all uncommon here, the fact that we’ve had them for such long periods each day (and sometimes night) is unusual. Having to rely on laptop battery life can throw a bit of a wrench into plans for the day when you’ve set aside time to work on computer-based projects, but I can’t complain too much. Kristen and Ali both have laptops with no functioning battery at all, so the second the power goes out they lose whatever they were working on (luckily they’re in the habit of saving often!) Despite the inconvenience, we all agree that sometimes it’s really nice to be forced to do nothing but sit and talk or read by candlelight. We’re also approaching a full moon soon, so the sky looks amazing at night when the whole village is dark.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Despite lacking a turkey or any of the normal trappings of fall, Kristen, Vanessa, Ali, Dye and I got together tonight at our volunteer house for Thanksgiving dinner. Between us we managed to create an eclectic (but very tasty) meal of BBQ pork, garlic mashed potatoes, pita and hummous, homemade spring rolls, miso soup, greens and a no-bake variation on pumpkin pie, which we were all too stuffed to actually get to tonight. Unfortunately Vanessa and Kristen both weren’t feeling great today, and didn’t really have a chance to indulge as much as the rest of us, but it was still fun to have everyone together for the holiday. Good practice for Christmas as well, which I’m sure will in no way resemble any Canadian holiday experience I’ve had before!
It’s a little hard for me to believe that a week ago I was still in Toronto, and was just getting ready to head out on a bus for the start of the trip to Africa. In lots of ways everything here feels incredibly new, and there’s certainly all kinds of stuff yet to learn, but I’ve been very pleasantly surprised with how other things have seemed to fall into place. There’s a particular rhythm to the days here that I really enjoy, and we’ve all been commenting on how nice so many of the Ugandans we come into contact with are.
Our trip to Kampala was a case in point. We hopped on a matatu (taxi) in Kasana on Friday afternoon, and luckily didn’t have to wait too long for it to fill up and take off for Kampala. It was great being able to travel with Kristen, since she’s made the trip many times and had all kinds of useful knowledge to impart (for instance, sit too close to the front of the matatu and you’ll get squished when they start squeezing more people on, too far to the back and you’ll risk sitting just in front of any number of unpleasant cargo (live chickens, coal, etc).
Another night, another thunderstorm. It appears that the rainy season in Uganda has certainly arrived. In the two days I’ve been here, there’s been a brief period each day with thunder, lightning and pelting rain. It’s actually quite a nice reprieve from the heat, and so far the storms have cleared within an hour or so. One of the midwives at the maternity centre was mentioning that they didn’t get any rain yesterday in her town, one over from Kasana, so it appears the storms are often quite localized as well. So far I haven’t been caught outside during one, though it’s only a matter of time…
It’s been a very eventful day. My flight arrived in Entebbe just after 6am local time, and, though they were delayed a little on their way to the airport, I was met by Ben, a Shanti Uganda staff member, and Ali, an intern who has been in Uganda for nearly a year. We drove the 45 minutes or so to Kampala, and stopped at a mall where I was able to exchange my US money for Ugandan shillings, buy a cell phone and airtime, and stock up on groceries. My phone number while I’m in Uganda will be 011 256 75 8522667. We’re 10 and 7 hours ahead of the Pacific and Eastern time zones, respectively.
Hello from Turkey! I’m sitting on the floor of the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, alongside other thrifty laptop users who are taking advantage of our proximity to one of those Sky Lounges to get free wireless internet. It’s 7pm local time, and I just got off a ten hour flight from Chicago to Istanbul, which was preceded by a quick flight from Buffalo. These 6 and 7 hour layovers are sure made more pleasant when there’s internet available…
In just over twelve hours, I’ll be boarding a plane that will (eventually) take me to Uganda. Hard to believe that a little over three weeks ago I hadn’t even yet heard whether or not I had a volunteer position there. Since getting my acceptance letter, it’s been a flurry of packing, travel clinic visits, conversations with people who have been to Uganda, and never-ending to do lists.