Friday, February 1, 2013

Wild Uganda

We passed by the equator.
I've been in Uganda for a little over a week now, and have just returned from our week long home stay in the rural Rakai district of Uganda.  My time there reminded me of how wild this place actually is.  Switching from (relatively) developed Kampala, to completely under developed Rakai was eye opening.  I found myself missing the trickling water we had in Kampala while we walked to fetch water at the spring in the valley and then subsequently boiled it to make it drinkable.
Standing in two different hemispheres. 
We walked to work every morning, spending thirty minutes observing our surroundings while thoroughly confusing everyone in town.  All of the children would run up waving shouting "Mzungu, How are you!" Our group would respond with "Fine how are you?" exhausting the children's english vocabulary.  Over the course of our stay in Rakai we must have had this conversation hundreds of times.  We passed stores for airtime, pork barbecue, and hair cuts.  People tried to get us to buy their wares, and we almost got run over by motor cycles on a daily basis. The first few days were rough, but now I think I prefer rural life compared to the hustling, dirty streets of Kampala.  It is really nice to just sit outside and look at the millions of stars speckling the sky, or to walk through town to pick up half cakes.
Learning how to harvest coffee beans. 
We spent the mornings at the Rakai Health Sciences Program, a program that has been reducing the HIV prevalence in the area since the late 1980s, learning about our independent topics.  Besides our time at RHSP, we transversed the town asking every healthcare worker who would listen about postnatal care.  I learned so much just by talking to people (usually needing an english to english translator) that it has revolutionized the way I look at learning, and I anticipate by the end of the trip I will return a changed person.
After the walk home, we would take up the role of the women and help prepare dinner and take care of the children.  Learning to cook over an open flame in a room separate from the house had a learning curve.  But I have picked up a few recipes that I am definitely taking back with me.  The gender roles in Rakai are a bit hard for me to swallow, but I am trying my hardest to finagle my way around the situation not offending anyone.  It's hard not to feel uncomfortable about the differences between the US and Uganda.  At the same time though, it's an inspiring and happy place to work.  People are friendly, the sun shines all the time (even when it's raining), and the work we're doing is so interesting.  Here's to the glass being half full, and exploring this crazy new place!
Doing research next to Lake Victoria. 

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