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, August 3, 2010

July 29th through August 3rd

Thursday July 29th
I wrote all day today, and Ginger compiled the preliminary results we developed yesterday into a document so we can take them with us to the foundation tomorrow. We went out with some friends to “Rock Night” at a local hang out. The music was only “rock” music half the time, but it was still awesome. I saw a famous Ugandan musician there. His name is Jamal and he sings a song I LOVE called, “Anavawa.” I walked right up to him and shook his hand. You can’t do that in America! Afterwards, we went and bought an “eggroll.” If you remember, about a month ago we realized that eggrolls are an entirely different substance here. See the pictures to appreciate the initial hilarity of this discovery.

Friday July 30th
Moses came with us to the foundation today. We introduced him to the administrators. We hope he can join the SAS team because he is such a great researcher and he really cares about social issues. After he left, we went over our recommendations with everyone. We had lunch at this really great Indian place in Bugulobi called “Pavement.” The restaurant has a glass window looking into the kitchen. There was not a single Indian person there, but the food was delicious. I never thought I would eat so much Indian food in Africa.

After lunch we had a meeting with the mentors. I went over the results of the pilot test with them, and then, we all say goodbye. Echiba sang a song for us and both he and Mary gave great speeches on our behalf. The whole time we were there, the resident black cat (who always shows up on time for lunch) was lying at Echiba’s feet, listening to him speak. People joked that the cat came for our final meeting too. Haha. After everyone spoke, it was our turn to say goodbye. I choked up and Ginger had to finish for me. She is so collected and eloquent when she speaks. I am really going to miss everyone here, and Ginger, too.

Saturday July 31
Today we worked, and I started to organize my things. It’s going to be difficult to fit everything in my suitcase. I am already saying goodbye to some people who I won’t see again. (Until next year of course)

Sunday August 1st
We went to buy coffee from 1000 Cups today, and we wanted to get some additional shopping done. We are attending a SAS Fundraiser in Baton Rouge in October, so we are bringing home Ugandan crafts to sell in the silent auction. All the proceeds from the crafts we put in the auction will go toward funding our trip next summer. We also had lunch in town, and did some writing.

Monday August 2nd
Happy Birthday MOM!!!
Today was a great day. We accompanied Moses and Sonja to the Aweno Market to see his mother. We’ve been in different markets, but never very deep into them. And the Aweno Market is the biggest market here. Moses’ mother sells fruits there, and has since he was a child. The market is like a gargantuan maze. And it is jam-packed. I was glad Moses was leading us, because I would never be able to find my way out by myself.

People are going in every direction, carrying large bags and wooden crates full of items on their heads. Sometimes you have to duck out of the way so you do not get hit in the head. You have to squeeze past people, and it is very loud. People are calling out, “Muzungu!” and pulling on your hands trying to sell you things. At one point, a man came behind us yelling, “Muzungu, I have stamina!” Haha. The market is a pretty intense experience. I would be afraid to go by myself, but I imagine after spending more time here I would feel more at ease there.

You can buy anything you want inside the market, if you know where to look, and how to get there in the first place. As you walk, your senses are overwhelmed with the most wonderful and the most terrible aromas. Fish and flowers, trash and fruits…it’s like a roller coaster of smells. We took tons of photographs so you can see what I mean for yourself. We bought some wonderful spices and Moses mother was very sweet. Moses bought some fruits from her so we could go make juice at his house.

Afterwards, we walked through the slums in Mengo. People were cooking and eating right in front of large open sewers. It was very unsanitary and the smell was overpowering. I can’t imagine eating and smelling that at the same time. Moses talked about hygiene and unsanitary conditions causing health problems in the area. I can see how. Moses is really intent on helping children from the slums with his organization, SASSO. He and Sonja help talented young soccer players by finding bursaries (scholarships) so they can go to school. He and Sonja have made a difference in at least 12 children’s lives (who live in the slums) so far. Their determination is inspiring, and the reason why we wanted to go with them today, to see the area where they’ve been working.

We went into a meeting place for street children, and they swarmed us. Children were grabbing us and pulling on our hands saying hello. One of them firmly planted his hand on my behind, I had to swat him away. The room they sleep in was extremely tiny, and 8 of them sleep there at night. I cannot believe that. Many teenagers came in, showing us bracelets they were trying to sell, or telling us about their plight. One young man showed us an extremely swollen leg, and he said it had started out as a small scratch. It looked like he had a staph infection to me. I wondered if he tried to keep the cut covered up and thought of the open sewage everywhere. After we visited for a while, Moses told them we were going to leave. They asked us for something to help them, and he told them we could not just pull our money out there. There were so many people crowded into the room with us, and piling outside the door. He told them to send one guy to walk with us, and when we got far enough away to feel comfortable, we would give them some money. Moses told us that they were all saying that we should give them money, because other people who came to see them gave them money. They followed us for a long time, all the way to Moses’ house. We decided to give them food instead of money. We gave them posho and UGX 2,500 to buy some sauce to go over it. Moses said that if we gave them money, it would go to drugs or something else, and never make it back to help the children.

We enjoyed some juice at Moses’ childhood home, and met some of his younger siblings. His brother, Peter can really dance. He was about to show us his moves and play music, but the power went out. Instead, he danced to the beat in his head. It was awesome!! Watch the video! Before we left, we played with some puppies that Sonja and Moses’ dogs had and they were so cute.

Next we went to Sonja and Moses’ new office. They had a bad experience with the last office space they rented. This one is in Mengo, and it takes them anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to reach the office from Kyngera. While were there, we met some of the young coaches and soccer players who live in the slums. We visited their homes, and met their relatives. At one house, the mother thrust her newborn infant into my arms, which is an occurrence that keeps happening to me here. People just hand me their babies although I don’t really know how to hold them properly. We also saw the new pitch (soccer field) that SASSO is going to be able to use to train players. It was a long day. Sonja and Moses have their work cut out for them. I hope to travel with them into the areas they work more when I come back next summer.

Tuesday August 3rd
It’s my last day in Kampala. I am sad. Last night I packed most of my things into the suitcase I brought. It does not feel right that I am already leaving.

This morning, Ginger came out of her room and told me she needed to go to the doctor. She showed me her stomach and she had HUGE bites all over her stomach, arms, and legs. She was itching all over and not feeling well. I started itching just looking at her bites! We left a note for Grace to wash her sheets, even if it is not time, because whatever bit her did so while she was sleeping, UNDERNEATH the mosquito net. We got a ride from our friend, and arrived at the SAS clinic before 9 am. The doctor told her it was actually not bug bites, but an allergic reaction to something. We just got a new detergent, so we figured that it must be irritating her. Then we quickly tried to call Grace to tell her NOT to wash Ginger’s sheets unless it was a different type of washing powder. Haha. The nurse gave Ginger a hydrocortisone shot, and I was in the room for the whole thing. The needle was HUGE, and they fashioned a tie-off around her right arm to restrict the blood flow. Then, the nurse stuck the needle directly into her vein, no butterfly needle was used. The process took almost five minutes. I could see Gingers face contorting in pain. All I could think was, “TAKE IT OUT!” The injection took entirely too long, and you could see her arm swelling as the nurse forced the cortisone into her vein. It was insane. Ginger handled the pain well, during the injection process, but It took her a good 10 minutes to recover afterwards. However, after a few hours, the shot seems to be working already so I guess it’s good that she got it over with. Tonight we are going to hang out with all of our friends one last time. This is my last blog from Uganda. At least, it’s my last blog from the 2010 field season. I cannot WAIT to come back.

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