Monday, July 06, 2009

Uganda Day 1

When I arrived in Uganda, it was pouring rain. It was a refreshing break to the sweltering heat of London (hotter than Bangkok on Tuesday!) I was kindly picked up from the airport and deposited at the guest house with no idea where to go or what to do from there. I was also informed that I have to pay rent (my supervisor didn’t bother to mention that before I got here). I asked the housekeeper to show me the way to the research institution (a 5-10 walk away), but when I got there and faced the security guard at the front gate, I wasn’t sure what to say or who to ask for. We finally figured something out and I was shown to my supervisor (she’d told me she wouldn’t be here). She informed me that she would give me a bunch of uncrunched data to stew over for the next two weeks while she’s out of the country, starting tomorrow. So yeah, I’m on my own for my first two weeks. But there is a lot of data to process, so I should have my hands full, and there are other people who can answer my questions about it.

I’m living in a four-bedroom guesthouse and each bedroom has it’s own toilet and shower, which is very nice. The housekeeper was kind to give me a larger, sunnier room since I’m staying so long. There is another girl from my school here, whom I’ve never met before today, but she seems super nice. There’s also a girl from Cambridge and a guy from Tanzania, and everyone is very nice. The girls have been here for a week already, so know a couple of the ins and outs (which are not at all easy to figure out!)

Despite having a pretty good idea of what most of Africa is like, I had for some reason expected Entebbe to be fairly upscale. Don’t ask where I got that impression. It is false. Many of the locals live in or work out of shacks (possibly both in the same shack?) A major industry around here appears to be taxiing people around on the backs of motor bikes (boda boda). I have not tried this yet and do not currently have any intention to do so. There are white people here, at least in the institution, so I know I’m not a complete novelty, but people still stare (perhaps it is my level of whiteness, which borders on glow-in-the-dark). As I was walking to the institute, I could hear little footsteps behind me, running to catch up. They slowed to a walk and followed me about a pace behind. I turned and the little boy said, “OwareYOU!” To which I said, “Hello, how are you?” and he responded, “Fine.” English is the official language of Uganda and most people with rudimentary education speak it, but I’m not sure exactly how much English the children know.

My supervisor had informed me that the internet was both quick and reliable, but so far it doesn’t seem to be either (I’m writing this in Word because I have no internet access in the guesthouse.) Apparently, rain is enough to disrupt the connection in the guesthouse. I also discovered that the institution I’m working and living at blocks Facebook and Gmail chat, my main ways of communicating with friends and family, respectively. Also, perhaps more importantly, I can’t seem to access the remote desktop system our school provides for us to be able to use certain software programs. This could be bad if I end up needing any of those programs for my project (though I don’t think I will.)

Anyway, I’m lucky I have any internet access at all. And this place is way cool. There are tons of cool bird sounds and when I was walking to the institute earlier, I saw monkeys jumping from tree to tree. Monkeys! In a residential area! Despite the culture shock, I think I could get used to this. Unless I get malaria, food poisoning, my room becomes infested with any sort of pest, or a tick burrows into my skin. Then I’ll be on the next plane out. What can I say? I’m a wuss.


  1. I think the theme of this entry could be "I expected this one thing, and it turned out to be completely different." Fun, huh?
    Keep up the good work!

  2. Monkeys? Cool!