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.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Blog 2: Travel to Kampala and first full day

While we were in Amsterdam I ate one of the best meals of my life at the fancy restaurant called Supper Club on Tuesday night. The restaurant has beds to lay on, with overstuffed pillows. There are small tables on the long beds, and a three or five course meal depending on the night you go. I can’t get over how much fun we had splurging on that meal. It was worth it. We watched a short burlesque show during desert, and I ate steak (which I never do) and loved every bite of it. That was so much fun. Afterwards we danced with some middle-aged couples on the floor. We walked home to help ease the too-full-feeling we had from the delicious food. You will have to appreciate the night (and food) from the pictures we took. See the right-hand side for the link.

While Amsterdam was fun to explore, I didn’t particularly love the city and I was looking forward to traveling to Kampala. A few things I found interesting about our time there: people hold hands riding bikes and are very affectionate in public, particularly in the parks. Even people who are old do it. Amsterdam feels like a great place to fall in love. Equally interesting: people ride bikes wearing high heels, texting and sans helmets. On the way to the airport I asked the cab driver if people hold up umbrellas as they ride their bikes in the rain. He explained the physics behind why that would not work, although I’m not convinced because people seem to do everything else whilst riding bikes. It seems plausible they also can manage to hold up an umbrella against the wind.

Our friend Sonja visited us on the last day we were in the city and we had a marvelous time catching up. She had never been to Amsterdam before and she said the old buildings were somewhat different from Cologne, Germany where she currently lives. She took several pictures of the canals and streets as we enjoyed coffee and lunch. We chatted about our experiences over the past year and explored the two markets. She and I only skyped twice since I last saw her in Uganda so it was wonderful to catch up in person, and in a new city. She has future plans to start an NGO and wants to do so many wonderful things to help children living in poverty in Uganda. She is an inspiration. I am lucky to have met such a dear and lifelong friend in Kampala. I wish she were traveling with us this year, although it’s really neat that we can meet up to hang out in another country on our way to the field. Next time, Eritrea!! She was kind enough to bring us German chocolates and a children’s book, and she gave me a few items to bring to her boyfriend Moses and the kids from the slums they help find soccer scholarships in Uganda. Walking around all day, it felt like no time had passed between us at all. It seemed normal to once again be tourists together and it reminded me of when we traveled with her last summer exploring Uganda. I was excited to leave Amsterdam, even though overall it was a fun experience. I know now that I prefer places like Kampala to Amsterdam.

We had an unpleasant experience at the airport. KLM charged us 100 Euros each to check a second bag, which we had to do because they would only let us carry on one item even though we saw a ton of people carrying on two. We already paid a luggage fee leaving the US so we didn’t understand having to pay twice AND not being allowed to carry it since we would have been able to if we had a short connecting flight instead of an extended layover. That’s almost $180 each plus the original fee of $50 which we all paid before we left. It’s outrageous. In addition, our flight stopped in Kigali, Rwanda even though it was not on our tickets or in the original itinerary.

When we finally got to the airport we realized that our ride thought we were arriving the next morning. It takes an hour to the Entebbe airport, so we waited and chatted over sodas. I had the ginger flavored one called “Stoney” that I liked so much last year. By the time we left the airport it was almost midnight. We’d been travelling since 8 am. We got to Kampala around one, and had no way to get into the apartment so we had Reverend drop us off at Kabiira Country Club where we pushed two double beds together and slept from around 2 am to 9 am. That cost us about 180 big ones too. Then, we ate breakfast at the hotel, which was really delicious and free (thankfully). Afterwards Reverend gave us a ride to the compound, where we waited on the porch outside for Grace and Annette to arrive. It was gorgeous out and the dog that lives with Rose’s family in the compound, named Dee-dee, played with us for a while. I listened to the birds that sound like they are laughing and cursed myself for once again forgetting my binoculars. There are over 1000 species of birds here. I wonder how much it would cost to buy binoculars.

We took long naps, unpacked, and then Nicole and I ventured to the grocery store. I bought a journal to write in and really wanted her to have a short period of exposure before our long day tomorrow. I am excited to see the city with fresh eyes and look forward to walking off all the chocolate, bread, and cheese we ate in Europe. After dinner, the water went off so we couldn’t do dishes. I decided to write in my field notes/journal instead. After I finished writing my field notes, as I dotted the period to the last sentence, the lights went out. Both the power and water are still off. Nicole just told me she heard something scurrying around (probably a roach) and we switched our headlamps to the redlight feature. The battery on Ginger’s computer is waning so I have to make this blog short. Welcome to Uganda! Ironically, these experiences add to the multitude of reasons I absolutely love it here!


  1. Gosh, Megs, you make me lost for words! But it really was a wonderful day, in fact one of the best days i had in a very long time, and i am so grateful i had the chance meeting you after such a long time! Please know that despite the distance and the time that passed you became one of the most important people in my life and i am more than certain this will last!
    I wish you guys so much fun down there, great new adventures and success with your work, will be eagerly waiting for getting updated every day! :)
    Say hi for me to everyone, love you big time!!

    P.S.: Maybe i shouldn't have told you about my 'not-being-picked-up-from-entebbe-airport' story from January, looks like it was kind of a bad omen for you guys! ;) But this is the ugandan chaos we talked about and why we all love the country so much i guess ;)

  2. My wife and I had the time of our lives on safari in Uganda.