So as Allie and Will beep-bopped across New England trying to catch a flight, Eliza and I began our fairly uninterrupted and ridiculously long trip to Entebbe during which we got to chat with some pretty interesting people, catch a few minutes of sleep, and eat some UNREAL airplane food (if you ever have the opportunity to fly KLM you should do it solely for the pasta and the creme puffs). After spending 22 hours telling other people about how excited we were to finally get to Uganda and meet up with our friends it definitely threw us for a whirl to read Allie’s e-mail about how they weren’t going to see us for another five days… Needless to say we took all of our belongings, piled them into one room (even though we were booked for separate), sat on our beds and hysterically laughed at the fact that we were in a completely foreign continent by ourselves…okay the laughter is a little exaggerated. I was actually having an internal meltdown (but actually a real meltdown thanks partially to my malaria medication side effects and partially to my gene pool). Thank goodness for jetlag because we didn’t have to feel guilty about spending all day on Saturday sleeping, only waking up because we had skipped lunch (because we didn’t know where to go) and were absolutely starving. With a little help from the in room wi-fi that we were so spoiled to have we found a nice restaurant that was probably a 5 minute walk from Sunset, but we asked for them to call us a cab anyway haha (only to later find out a cab ride in Uganda should cost about 1,000 shillings or eh $.50 and we paid 10,000 each way).
I wish I could say we warmed up to our surroundings once we got to Masaka but the shock of being in Africa by ourselves definitely took its toll on us for a few days hahah. Looking back on it, what would a trip to a new country be if we didn’t begin by warming up to our hotel’s patio staff and their ridiculously overpriced food before actually learning anything about where we are? Then one day we heard all of the kids getting out of the school across the street from Hotel Zebra and decided to go on a “walk”; we ended up going probably 200 feet in each direction of the hotel entrance but hey…baby steps. This same day I think we decided to unpack our bags so it actually felt like there were people living in our room which made a WORLD of difference on how at home it felt. On Tuesday two of the local university interns from Kitovu gave us a tour of downtown Masaka and I’d say this a huge milestone in our trip because Eliza and I finally realized that with slight caution we could in fact leave the gates of Hotel Zebra with only the slight risk that my unobservant self would be run over by a boda-boda. SO THAT NIGHT WE WENT GROCERY SHOPPING ALL ON OUR OWN!!!! And since then we have shown Allie and Will as much as we can and have been much more open to exploration (while always staying very aware of our surroundings and the 7pm sunset of course Momma).
But travel nonsense aside I can already tell you that this experience, especially the opportunity to work with Kitovu, is going to forever change my outlook on the world. The organization does the most amazing variety work and it seems as though they manage to target everyone in this district with their outreach. At least four days a week almost every department is out delivering services to a different area. In the last week alone I’ve been into at least a dozen different homes, in at least 4 or 5 different villages, and worked with patients ranging from those receiving end of life palliative care treatment for what were mostly HIV related cancers to school age children who are being given a second chance at success through Kitovu’s Farm to School program (a program for children who didn’t have the opportunity to complete school for one reason or another so they learn how to sustainably farm and produce other goods that they can sell into their community, not only making money for themselves but also contributing to their villages economy as well). This week we have all gotten to witness Kitovu’s free HIV testing clinics where anyone can come and get a free test and counseling as well as access to treatment if necessary. And of course the regulations here are few and far between so after watching the nurse conduct a handful of tests we are then free to test the patients as well haha. All in all I’m starting to wish we were here for more than a month because I’m only beginning to imagine how much there is to gain from working with Kitvou.
Tomorrow we are each going to different villages and conducting our hygiene and water sanitation assessment!! There are about 120 people signed up to have their homes inspected and scored by us. Different household items (a bathroom, a pit latrine, a place to boil water safely etc.) give the community members points and in two weeks we are going to hold a climax day where the families that scored the highest will receive prizes for their outstandingly hygienic home! Seeing that we’ve been in the field basically everyday since we’ve gotten here I’m just hoping that the assessment goes forward without any major setbacks and we can all have fun meeting many of the community members that our project touches. Look forward to passing on some of the results to you guys!