Skip to content

My Last Week 08/19/2015 at 2:29 PM EST

My last week wasn't very busy since I only had two more trainings. The first one went well again, especially since Eve and I were getting used to doing them and had established a good rhythm. However, disappointedly, the last meeting didn't end up taking place at all. There had been a scheduling miscommunication and so no one showed up meaning that the last few groups didn't receive the training. It was a disappointing note to end on, but thankfully Medie works with SAFE full-time meaning he can go and train them at a later date. I moved into the office in Iganga at the end of the week since only Britton was left and I no longer needed to be in the village. It was nice to have electricity, Internet and running water my last few days there! I also went to Iganga District Hospital once to observe a delivery as observational research. Thankfully all went well, but the conditions of the hospital were extremely saddening. I'm glad I got to experience it though so that I could see what exactly it was we were telling the women to go to when we promote going to a health center for delivery. Definitely not an ideal situation, but it is still better than delivering at home without any electricity.
   It's crazy to think my time in Uganda is already at an end. In some ways it feels like it went by so quickly while in others I feel like I've been gone a long time. I'm really glad I got to have this experience. It's been amazing getting to know people here and exploring the country. I also really value the hands on experience in public health education, both the fun parts of working with community leaders who want to see a change in their villages, and the difficult parts I encountered. It was also good to see the interns doing research because it gave me some exposure to both qualitative and quantitative research without having actually done any myself. It will be weird going back to the US after such a long time in Uganda and I will definitely miss the slower pace of life here and the people I've met.

A Balance of Work and Travel 08/19/2015 at 2:28 PM EST

This week we had the first two training sessions! Both of them went well thankfully. We decided to train all ten groups in four sessions total, subdivided by region. In Ugandan culture you are required to feed participants if the meeting is going to be more than an hour or two long, so we gave each group some money to buy food. The first training was a bit of trial and error so it took multiple hours. I first trained them on basic flipchart use and then went through each page individually and allowed them to ask questions. We stopped in the middle for them to prepare the food (which was delicious!) making it take even longer. Due to Lusoga being more a oral culture and many of the group members not being proficient readers, my explaining all the material to them (with Eve translating) is a critical part of the training. I was glad about how many questions were asked because it meant they were understanding and processing what I was saying. It was also a fun cultural experience because sometime the questions they asked would never have even occurred to me. For example, on person asked me if duck eggs are just as nutritious as chicken eggs. The second session went even better. Having done it once before helped and I adjusted a few things as well. For example, we had them cook after the meeting.
   After the end of the second meeting I headed to Kampala. Debbie, Rachel and I were going on a safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park and I was meeting them in Kampala. They were finished with their internship and would be heading to Tanzania afterwards. It was a great chance to get away and take a break! Plus I have always wanted to go on a safari so that was exciting! And it was definitely worth the money. My favorite part were the elephants. We got to get quite close to them and they're just such beautiful animals.

Just a Regular Week 08/19/2015 at 2:26 PM EST

This week we were supposed to meet with all the chair people of the community groups. They have monthly meetings and this was going to be one of them. Unfortunately, it ended up being postponed for some reason. I had planned on showing them the flip charts I made and asking for feedback regarding the content and cultural appropriateness. Since it didn't work out to ask all the chair members, I went and visited with Reverend, who also speaks English better, and had him give me feedback. It was helpful to talk with Reverend because he has a good understanding of SAFE's projects and goals and was also able to give me feedback in English. Much of the feedback he gave was cultural so I was thankful to have met with him. Receiving his feedback allowed me to then go ahead and have Eve translate the charts into Lusoga as well.
I also met with Cassiva, a treasurer for Mabeda group and the coordinator for all the income generating projects. Jacquie, the US director, asked me to find out the price of seed, etc. that it would cost to restart the projects for all the groups. Since I have absolutely no idea how to find that kind of information out in Uganda, I consulted with Cassiva. He was very helpful and I was able to learn everything I needed to report back to Jacquie. I never imagined I would have to learn how much eggplant seed costs! But I guess that is another good lesson. Sometimes we have to do other unexpected things in order to help accomplish our overall goals, especially when working overseas!
I've gotten used to life here by now. Usually I wake up to the mosque down the street calling people to prayer and the kids playing outside. The mornings in the village are usually relaxed as Eve and I prepare some breakfast and then read, chat or do laundry until the afternoon when our meetings are. At first all the down-time frustrated me, but now I value it since I know I won't have much time to relax once I start second year. Many afternoons (and some late mornings) we have some sort of meeting with community groups or chair people. When we get back we relax again until a late dinner around 8:30. We pay a local Ugandan woman to cook for us. The food here is delicious! We eat lots of beans, rice, posho (cooked cornmeal) and fresh avocado. We eat in the light of a candle because by now it is dark outside and so after dinner I head to bed most evenings since there isn't much else to do. Thankfully I brought a headlamp to read by though!

A Week of Meetings 08/19/2015 at 2:00 PM EST

Thankfully my predictions from last week were incorrect. Eve kept us to quite a schedule with 3-4 group meetings a day this week. These meetings have been going well though sadly I haven't been able to meet as many of the group members as I would've liked. It is currently gardening time in the area, so meeting with entire groups isn't possible. Consequently we have been meeting with chair people or other leaders in the group in order to get a sense of what each group is up to. Everyone I've met has been very welcoming which is great! In one of the groups, one of the older women was especially excited to meet me, which was nice. It made me wish that I could speak more Lusoga than the basic greetings so that I could talk with her and get to know her a little.
Thanks to how many meetings Eve schedule for us this week we were able to finish meeting with all the groups. A former intern came and spent the night in the village. She had spent the last month in Malawi and came to see Medie. Thursday afternoon after our meeting Eve and I headed back into town for Julia's goodbye dinner and because I needed the Internet and power to work on the flipcharts. Then I spent the rest of the weekend working on the flip charts in order to finish them before heading back to the village Tuesday. Happily, I was successful!

Beginning My Project 08/19/2015 at 1:59 PM EST

My second week started with my first community group meeting. Medie, the Ugandan director, and I decided that the best way to start was by meeting all the groups and hearing from them about their outreaches and any concerns or questions they have for SAFE. The meeting went well though they had a lot of concerns because the income generating activity that SAFE had given them (crops) had died due to a drought and so they weren't earning any money for their time. We had a second meeting scheduled for Wednesday however instead of the meeting, I received my first introduction to challenges of working with people and in another country. After sitting there for about an hour, we finally learned that due to a municipal meeting our meeting would not be taking place that day. While disappointing, I figure it's good to realize early on that working in a different culture requires adjusting my expectations to match that culture a bit more. Therefore, since things in Uganda tend to move more slowly than in the US, it would take me longer to complete my project than I had initially thought.
True to my reflections after the first cancelled meeting, progress on my project this second week is slower than hoped. There were no further meetings scheduled until the following week meaning the rest of my week was more or less off. I got to celebrate Rachel's (a fellow intern) birthday in Iganga by going to an Indian restaurant (Leoz) and then Sol Café for cake! Friday morning Eve and I visited Reverend. He is one of the community group leaders and has been working with SAFE for a long time now. He recently had surgery and so Eve and I brought him a card and gift of food from SAFE. He was very happy to meet me and I got to meet his wife Elizabeth as well, another chairperson for a community group.
Then, upon returning to Iganga, Rachel, Debbie, Julia and I headed to Sipi Falls for the weekend. Britton was unfortunately not able to come because her project is so big she has to work on Saturday's too. The weekend was absolutely amazing! The falls are gorgeous and we could see the largest of the three from the lodge we stayed at. We got to go on a hike to see the other two falls and even walk underneath the spray of one of them. The difference in landscape and climate was also striking. Because Sipi Falls is on Mt. Elgon, it was much cooler than Iganga as well as damp. The vegetation was consequently also very lush, making the scenery even more picturesque. The other interns had just finished a somewhat frustrating week and so they especially enjoyed getting away and relaxing and I was grateful to have some time to get to know them a bit better.

First Week in Uganda! 08/19/2015 at 1:56 PM EST

My summer in Uganda started when I left Philadelphia Tuesday evening. After many hours of travel I finally arrived in Iganga, Uganda just in time for dinner with the other interns on Thursday evening. All the other interns from Emory had arrived in May because their school let out earlier. The four of them are MPH students and are doing different research projects.
The next day, Friday, I met Eve. She is a Ugandan employed by Safe Mothers Safe Babies and I would be staying with her in the village. She is also going to be my translator and help me organize the needed meetings with the community groups. Eve taught me some Lusoga (the local language) so that I would be able to greet people and say a few basic things. And then, after buying food and supplies we headed to Ibulanku, the village in which I am staying. The house is next to a few other houses that all belong to one extended family and there are lots of kids in the family which is fun. We only spent a night there before returning to Iganga for the rest of the weekend though since I couldn't start my actual project until the next week. Monday we returned to Ibulanku and Eve began scheduling the meetings with the community groups.
This first week has been a bit overwhelming with all the new sights and sounds! It's especially weird to suddenly be a minority. All of us interns especially stand out in Iganga. It's a smaller city and thus the only non-Ugandans are us and a few interns from other organizations. The children often follow us and call out Muzungu (foreigner) wherever we go. Out in the village I am the only white person and some of the younger kids seems almost afraid of me because of never having seen a white person before. I myself on the other hand have never lived quite so remotely or rurally. There is neither electricity nor running water and the farmland begin immediately behind the house. I'm curious to see how it will be once I stay there for more than just one night!