Agandi! Hello. My name is Tenielle and I am a 3rd
year Nutrition student from the University of Saskatchewan undertaking a global health placement in Uganda from May - August 2016. This experience was made possible to me through the support of a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship and blogging about my experience here is a requirement of this scholarship and program. I’ve never blogged before. I am terrible with technology, but I enjoy writing, so I am hoping that this works out! A few technological delays (lack of knowledge, poor internet connections, blowing up of my adapter), have prevented me from creating a blog and posting before this week.
To catch you up on my experience so far… All of the Canadian students arrived on the same flight through Brussels to Entebbe on May 18th
. We were greeted by our guest home owner and were transported to the guest home. We spent several days in Entebbe preparing ourselves for the summer by buying Internet and cellphones. We also visited some tourist attractions: the botanical gardens and the Wildlife Education Centre. We went swimming one day at a very large, very Western style hotel. We rode boda bodas (motorcycle taxis) to get to the mall one day, but otherwise we mostly walked everywhere.
On Sunday May 22nd we were transported to Mbarara to our dorms at the University. Monday we began a 5 day orientation in our multidisciplinary groups. Eight Canadian students were assigned to 2 different teams heading to Rugazi. The other 4 students were assigned to a team heading to Kibale. My team consists of Canadian and Ugandan students from many disciplines: Medicine, nursing, nutrition, pharmacy, pharmaceutical sciences, and laboratory. There are 9 of us all together. On the Saturday we loaded ourselves onto busses to head to the rural villages. The two Rugazi teams are staying at the same hostel located near the health centres.
The climate is hot and fairly humid but it makes for very beautiful scenery. Everything is quite lush, and the area we are in right now is slightly mountainous. There are large hills with tea plantations and fields of plantain trees. Journeying from Entebbe to Mbarara we crossed the equator into the Southern Hemisphere. Right now in Rugazi, we are still fairly close to the equator. This makes the days a lot shorter than those we usually experience during summers in Canada.
Ugandan culture is very different from the Canadian culture I have grown up with. Here we are told that we speak and talk too quickly. Walking quickly here is a sign that you are holding valuables, or alternatively, that you are up to something suspicious. Theft is one of the most common crimes in Uganda. Having my orientation group set “no stealing” as one of the ground rules was a little bit shocking. Everything here takes significantly longer than in Canada. If we order drinks and food in an empty restaurant, it takes an hour for everyone to get their drinks (if they are more complicated like milkshakes or fancy cocktails) and around 2 hours to get food. This isn’t the pace that we, as starving Canadian travelers are used to.
Overall, the people we have met are very nice and they usually welcome us to their country, village, or even into their homes; as was the case with some of our community work so far. Here, as white travelers, we are referred to a “muzungos”. Children shout at us from their homes and some go as far as following, hugging or asking us for money. The assumption here is that all white people are rich. This is very different from how I feel as a broke student in Canada.
Right now we have been in Rugazi for one week. I will likely spend a few blogs on the community work and the clinical work we will be undertaking over the next 3 weeks. Afterwards we are headed to Mbarara for 6 weeks of more clinical work. Finally, we are ending our trip with a fun safari. I’m very excited!
Thanks for reading! Webare!
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