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Africa » Uganda » Western Region » Mbarara
May 28th 2019
Published: May 28th 2019
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We made it to Mbarara! This past week we finished up touring in Entebbe and set out for Mbarara. We drove from Entebbe to Mbarara (about five hours) through the countryside, stopping at the equator on the way. We took our picture at the circle denoting the equatorial line and there was supposedly a display demonstrating The Coriolis Effect on water, but since it was raining we decided to stop for it on our way back to Kampala. It rained the whole drive but the countryside was still picturesque. After leaving the cities (Entebbe and Kampala), the landscape became rolling, lush, green hills and constant communities. Unlike Saskatchewan, we were never driving on a stretch of uninhabited highway for more than a few minutes. The communities were so frequently occurring that the drive was never dull to watch. The total population of Uganda is about 37 million (37x the size of Saskatchewan) in an area about 1/4 the size of Saskatchewan. Uganda only has one city over 1 million (the capital city Kampala, at 1.5 million) and the next biggest city is only 100, 000 people large. This leaves most of their population to live in villages throughout the country. Although this is the case, the country doesn't feel overcrowded. There is no lack of greenery and open spaces.

I have noticed a stark comparison between the streets in Canada and those in Uganda. The city we are living in now, Mbarara, has a population about 98, 000 (half the size of Regina), yet the streets are always teeming with people. Walking on the street as white people is exhausting because people are constantly yelling at you, pointing, asking to take your picture, and taking your picture without asking. There are many different dialects in Uganda and even within Mbarara but every one has a version of "muzungo" which means "white person" or "foreigner". We hear this A LOT. Yelling and pointing at minorities on the street is not something I am accustomed to because Canada is such a multicultural country. In Mbarara, the main street is packed and bustling with people walking, chatting, selling their wares, doing construction, biking, meditating, cooking, preaching, teaching, and overall just being human. The city feels as if it has the population of New York City, when in fact it's smaller than Saskatchewan's capital. Life is lived out loud and unapologetically here. It made me realize how little time we spend on the street in Canada. We are either in transit (in our cars, on a bus, taxi, uber, etc.) or inside the building of our destination.

We settled into our housing for "expatriates" (international students) at the Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST), toured the campus and a bit of the city. We were fortunate enough to have local connections through our program who showed us the pool, the central market, movie theater, bank, and much more. One of our local friends, Maurius, also bought us a bag of grasshoppers to try. On the main road there are sheets with hundreds of grasshoppers, with their legs picked off, laying on them. You can buy them "fresh" (alive) or cooked in their own oils (they are very oily). We opted for the cooked insects. They tasted mild, oily, salty, and were crunchy. We were lucky because grasshoppers are only in season near the changing of the wet and dry season in May and in November. At the central market we buy our produce. I think I have eaten at least one mango every day since arriving in Uganda. They taste like heaven, you don't have to worry about bacteria since you don't eat the peel, and they only cost 500 shillings (about 15 cents Canadian).

We lost our running water after about two days in Mbarara, which was inconvenient because there were seven of us and no sink, toilet, or shower. We were without water for about 3 days but we made due by buying bottled water, going to the pool, using public washrooms, and borrowing from our neighbours. We met our neighbours in the house next to us on campus housing who happened to be nursing students from Michigan here for a similar exchange in community health. We had drinks at their place one of our first nights here and all got along really well.

This week we will spend our down time volunteering at a local orphanage and touring the hospital. I cannot believe I'm here. I love every minute, even without water.

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