Mbarara town

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June 28th 2018
Published: June 28th 2018
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I have been in Uganda now for 2 days and I already feel settled - it does feel like a home away from home. I have also already settled into my lovely soda addiction!

Once I arrived from Entebbe to Mbarara I felt a rush of relief as I thought "okay this I know". The sights, the sounds and that very distinct Mbarara smell flooded me with memories. This town can be unforgiving but it can also bring you amazing opportunities to see the good in people.

I am excited to continue our collaboration with MUST and I myself (along with the new students this year) had a formal tour of the hospital. Many things have changed since 2 years ago and I am happy to see they received more funding to expand certain wards like pediatric oncology and gynecology.

This past day has honestly been a foggy, sleep deprived day but it was nice to hear the students explain their experiences in the community. I felt more than one heart pang at their experiences that warmed their heart or made me remember a similar experience I had. I still cannot help but giggle at their inflexible attitudes on certain things. I thought their almost month in rural Uganda would have squashed that a bit more.

I think my day of observation (because making a sentence was a struggle when my body thought it was 3am back home) made me realize how my efforts as the new program coordinator did and did not pay off. It will certainly help me in planning for next year's group. I truly believe many students will take a lot away from this and appreciate the preparation they had but some I feel will not. It does feel disappointing because I cannot even begin to fathom treating my experience 2 years ago in a different light. To close yourself off and only focus on the negative pieces of your experience gives you the worst kind of tunnel vision. But this is also not my failing nor theirs. Sometimes you need that time to step away from this experience to begin to appreciate it. I also empathize with how tough this time away from home can be. I do still think each and every student will come back changed and appreciative of all they are offered in life. What you make of this journey is your own choosing and no one else's.

I think the tour of the hospital was the toughest part so far for me. I recognized many of the health care workers but also sadly some parents of pediatric patients. They currently are dealing with a measles epidemic at the hospital and many of those mothers I know I have seen before. Seeing the hospital and rotating through the wards I spent many hours in brought back many happy memories of child play therapy, giggling over stickers, and playing peek-a-boo with the toddlers. It also brought back the many sad memories of lost patients, lack of oxygen for those that need it and just the general struggle of everyone trying to get the help they need in the very over run public health care sector. Even though much has changed I still can picture how it was when I was there and the last patient I remember sitting on that bed or mother standing guard nearby.

I still cannot believe I was able to come here through my job and feel so happy, and honestly emotionally drained, at being back to my home away from home.

Sending love from Africa!

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