When I told my family and friends that I would be interning in Uganda this summer, I received the following various remarks and questions:
“Is it safe?”
“Is that in South America? Oh wait, that’s Uruguay.”
“What language do they speak?”
“What kind of food do they eat?”
“Did you go there before when you lived in Ethiopia?”
“Have you read Chelsea Handler’s book, Uganda Be Kidding Me?”
Some of these made me laugh and others I really wanted to figure out the answers to. I wanted to be an informed visitor, better than I admit I was when I went to Ethiopia three years ago. In leading up to my travel, I researched Uganda as best as possible. I have read various current news articles, journal articles, and some books: Girl Soldier by Faith McDonnell and Grace Akalo and I am currently about halfway through The Teeth May Smile But The Heart Does Not Forget by Andrew Rice. I recommend both books if you’re looking for some new reading!
While I learned a lot through this preliminary exploration, nothing replaces firsthand experience. I arrived yesterday to a hot, lush, orange and green landscape filled with smiling people. I promise this is not an exaggeration. There is no way to better describe how content, relaxed, and welcomed I felt from people at the airport and the driver that picked me up. G, the driver, was waiting for me at the airport holding a sign: ALLISON BORN, THE AGA KHAN FOUNDATION. I’ve never had a driver wait for me with a sign before so that was exciting! He was so friendly and excited to give me important advice and help me settle in. Views from the drive reminded me of Maui, Hawaii but imagine putting a filter on the landscape that makes everything look warmer and happier. From getting off the plane all the way to arriving at my hotel, the sites and sounds from Entebbe to Kampala were thrilling. So thrilling that I fell asleep! Haha! Honestly, I was so exhausted from all of the travel.
However, once I checked into the hotel and mustered up a second wind, I ate dinner: fish in a white wine butter sauce with some vegetables. It was tasty. I’m glad Lake Victoria borders Uganda on the southeast so fish will be something I can eat every so often!
As mentioned earlier, numerous people back in the states were (and are) concerned about my safety but I can’t say it enough that I feel surrounded by kind people. Everyone greets each other and the hotel has made sure I am as comfortable as possible. Finally, while I know to secure my belongings and be aware of my surroundings, remember: crime happens everywhere. It is not exclusive to any one city, country, or continent.
Looking forward…I will spend the next few days here in Kampala and then on Tuesday, I have an 8-hour drive to Arua, the medium-sized town I will be living in for 3 months. I can’t wait to see more lush landscapes and wildlife, meet more people, and start my internship. As G said when driving: “this is just the tail of the snake.”