I am an applied medical anthropologist beginning my PhD in Public Health this fall. For the second summer in a row, I will travel with my research partner, Ginger Mckay, to Kampala, Uganda. Last summer, we evaluated an HIV education program for children developed by the Savannah Sunrise Foundation, which is a non-profit organization. We we will be residing in Kampala from the end of May until the end of July to conduct additional fieldwork. This summer, our colleague Nicole Smith will be joining us as we wrap up our project.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Friday 28th May

Friday 28th May
Today we meant to wake up early. It ended up being after 9:30 that we actually got up. We purposefully stayed awake until 2 a.m. so that we might sleep through the night (for once). At first it seemed like a great idea, but at 3:30 I was still wide awake. I took the opportunity to start reading my new book. O’Conner is very funny and his writing is liberal and bold. I like reading the book so far. I recommend it.
Annette stopped by early, even though we weren’t expecting anyone until Saturday. She helped wake us up though, so that’s good. Then, Grace came too. Grace was upset that we haven’t yet finished the food she prepared for us on Wednesday. She keeps telling us we don’t eat enough. Even though as she fussed at us, we were currently eating the breakfast we made ourselves: fresh eggs with garlic, onion, tomato and toast with Blue Ban. They are sold individually, not in cartons. They taste way better than the free range “organic” eggs in the US. After breakfast, we went to the store to get a few items we needed.
There are two grocery stores right up the road, and this time we went to a new one. You have to leave your bags at the door in a cubby hole, and there is a guard who watches you walk through the gate. Then you can shop. The shopping carts are half the size of the ones in America. The isles are full of packaged goods, vegetables, and foodstuffs. Some I’ve seen before, and others I haven’t. If you leave your cart alone too long, an employee will commandeer it and help you shop. We bought a Phillips blender so we can make juice/smoothies. We also bought a new frying pan because all of the ones in our apartment have their handles burnt off on account of the heat from the gas stove. The grocery also has an upstairs, with a zigzag ramp you take the cart up. Downstairs was more of the grocery, and upstairs reminded me of a discount store with knickknacks. They even sell cribs with mosquito nets. We also saw these neat vases that are made out of bull horns. I sorta want one, but I’m waiting. Ginger and I are not going to buy any souvenirs for a while, so we can shop around for the best prices and items.
It was really hot today, and carrying the water was easier this time because we each carried one. They are 5 liters. Our bookbags helped us carry the groceries back instead of the flimsy cardboard box. We have to walk down dirt hills that become slick and are easy to fall on. This way was much better. After we unpacked our items, we left to go to the foundation. We are still working on the paperwork for UNCST, which is taking a bit longer than we hoped. Everything here takes way longer than it does in America. We walked up to the main road to catch a boda. This time we shared one.
I was sandwiched in the middle of the driver and Ginger. Ginger suggested I tell the driver, “Please drive safe,” when we got on. I told him, and he drove extremely carefully. People are so nice here. I was so glad because I didn’t have anything to hang on to but my knees if we got in a jam. We pulled up right at the foundation. The foundation has a clinic where they provide health services people with HIV/AIDS and they also have the mentorship in the back. We walk past the clinic, to the open air offices in the back where the supervisors and administrators work. We had access to the computer and printer there, but the experience was still frustratingly slow. But much better than in the internet cafes. Of course, the printer was out of ink, and the internet kept cutting us off, but we got to read our emails after a while. We completed our paperwork, and will bring it back to UNCST on Monday.
One thing about the clinic: there are cats there. They follow people around who are eating (we arrived at lunch time). They are so cute, and since the doors and windows are open you can see and hear everything going on. I kept seeing the cat walking alongside someone on their lunch break, meowing. Funny. That’s the thing about our compound too. Our windows have screens, but they are always “open.” The top part of the window is a metal screen. It stays pretty cool with the breeze in the house, so I’m now used to no air conditioning. However, you can hear (and smell) everything: people coughing across the street, babies crying, children playing, cats screeching, dogs barking, people laughing, people cooking. In the early mornings, you can hear roosters and they are loud. So are the dogs. There is a pack of dogs that consistently start howling around 5 a.m. They remind me of Disney Movie the 101 Dalmatians when all the dogs communicate to each other throughout the city. It’s like sleeping outside really. I’ve made good use of my ear plugs.
The people here throw trash on the ground everywhere. There are drainage ditches full of trash, and sometimes you walk past a pile that has a particularly ripe smell. There are seriously are no trashcans. I think I’ve seen two, and they were overflowing with garbage. If they aren’t littering, they burn their trash in their yards outside. You can smell the smoke wafting in through the open windows. The first few days I was here, I thought something was burning in the house until I realized it was our neighbors burning trash. The smoke doesn’t smell as bad as the piles and ditches do. It smells more like a gas heater, in the early winter when you first turn it on and the dust burns off.
The animals are interesting here. There will be goats, chickens, dogs, cats just walking around the city. They have no clear owners, they are just hanging out. The goats and chicken eat the trash. We were thinking maybe all the city needs is a massive influx of bats and goats. I would add stoplights and trashcans. When we were headed toward the foundation the other day there was a giant bull and cow lounging in the grassy median on the really busy Kampala Road. The bull had huge horns, and looked like he must be worth money. Cars, bodas and matatus are just zooming by, and the cows are just hanging out. Who do they belong to? It looks so odd. Today after we finished at the foundation, we walked the whole way home. On my new map, we measured with string and it says it’s two miles. We both agree the map is wrong and it is more like 3 or 4. There are several places mis-marked on the map, so we are probably correct.
After dinner, the sun was setting and I went to the door to take a photo from our porch. But the door was already open, which we didn’t realize all through dinner. I know I shut it when I saw it was getting dark, but I guess not all the way. The mosquitoes were buzzing inside and outside, but I didn’t realize it until I came back in. They are so terrible. We sprayed the room and ourselves.
Tonight we made banana bread after dinner. The gas oven takes some focused thought. You have to convert Fahrenheit from the recipe into Celsius to cook at the proper temperature. Then, you have to stick the lit match precariously into the oven into a hole and simultaneously turn the know to let the gas out. It’s really a two person job. Lighting it seems dangerous, but we are up for the challenge. Halfway through baking the banana bread, Ginger checked on it and a mosquito was stuck to the outside edge of the oven. It was like it tried to fly in there at the last second. Luckily it didn’t get on the bread. I’m excited for Grace to try the bread, she calls it, “Banana cake.” Tomorrow is reading day and we are going to the coffee shop to visit Joan!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Meg! It all sounds so exciting and I love your details about the day to day things like hearing the dogs, cats, kids, etc. that are normal sounds but make a lot of noise. At my parents place I need white noise to sleep, but I think I would need earplugs there too. I'm still apartment hunting and feel like goldy-locks: this one's too much, this one's too small...no happy-medium just right yet. But I have some good prospects yet. Good news, the student loans offers for a phd go way up. I'm trying to avoid more debt, but it's good to know I'm covered even without a fall GA. Thought you would like to know :) Banana cake sounds great about now. I'm trying to cook more since my advisor's kitchen is gorgeous and huge. I brought my own microwave though because she didn't have one. I was fine without AC for a few days, but couldn't live w/o a microwave. Enjoy your reading day and good luck Monday turning in your work. I miss you both and love your blog posts. Thanks for taking the time to write them! <3 Nic