Fruit Tales and Ebola Scare


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Africa » Uganda » Western Region » Mbarara
July 8th 2019
Published: July 8th 2019
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Rugazi B group (B stands for best)Rugazi B group (B stands for best)Rugazi B group (B stands for best)

Back row from left to right: Jennifer, Angela, Halimah, me, John, Gerald. Front row from left to right: Esther, Veronica, Brooke, Joshua, Rayden.
Good morning!

I am writing from the road between Mbarara and Kampala. These past weeks have been filled with adventures, and I’ve done a poor job at keeping up with my blog. However, in the spirit of keeping a faithful recollection of my trip, I will make a blog post for every week I’ve missed. Since I will be on the road these next few days as we travel between Kampala, Gulu, and Mbarara, I will have plenty of time and no excuse to avoid blogging. The funny thing is that I enjoy writing and I am always so satisfied when I post a blog. But I always want to add so much detail to my posts, making the writing process quite time-consuming. And so I stop writing because I’d rather be doing other things.

Last time I signed off, I had returned to Mbarara for my LCP training. Our long-awaited orientation was finally happening on June 10th, and we would meet the Ugandan students with whom we would spend the next month. My week was off to a rough start as the night before, I lost my footing on the gravel in the street walking back from the
Happiest moment of the dayHappiest moment of the dayHappiest moment of the day

The pit was 6.8cm in diameter! This avocado was big enough to last me three days, and I love my avocados so that's saying something.
market, and I badly scraped my knee and ripped my pants. I fell on the groceries I was carrying in the process, and I was arguably more upset about my bruised bananas than my bloody leg. Typical Nutrition student. However, the whole ordeal was funny since at that point every Canadian on the trip had fallen once; whether it be while carrying huge bags and looking like a helpless turtle (Rayden), or in the ciment trench beside our house at night (Victoria), or on her own two feet at the Ssesse islands (Casey). Haley is the only one who has managed to avoid it so far.

To continue with the fruit theme, let me tell you about the large fruits we have found this week. Our QES group has a summer-long competition for who can find the biggest avocado pit. I took the lead with a pit with a diameter of 6.8cm from an avocado that was bigger than a softball. Jennifer also found a mango that must have been 20cm tall. And finally, we kept seeing jackfruit trees around Mbarara, and we resolved to take a picture since we practically never see this huge, spiky, tumor-shaped fruit in
Our tumor fruitOur tumor fruitOur tumor fruit

We found these jackfruits in an abandoned Rolex stand. We should have taken one home.
Canada. How does it taste? After debating with the other students, we determined that it is reminiscent of a melon with a flowery tang and a texture of a pepper’s skin. Enjoy the pictures I’ve added. I hope they amuse you as much as me.

Again on the subject of food, Ken let us in on a MUST (Mbarara University of Science and Technology) student secret and showed us the best place to get Rolex around the university. This stand was called Smart Mega, and it was intriguing to watch our Rolex guy crack his eggs with a knife, spread it on the hot cast iron pan over a charcoal fire, and deftly flip the omelet with… (you guessed it) his knife. We also learnt of another dish offered by this roadside stand that was apparently named after a movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger: ckicommando (chopped up chapati with beans). I have no idea how the name relates to the dish but it is tasty!

The week-long training at MUST had classes from 8:15am to 5pm, and it was a drag at times. The Ugandan way of teaching involves lots of repetition and class discussion which was helpful at
The best (worst) kept secret of MUSTThe best (worst) kept secret of MUSTThe best (worst) kept secret of MUST

The going price for rolex around here? 500 shillings for each egg and 500 for each chappati. Veggies and spice come free of charge. My rolex usually cost 1500- about 50 cents CAN.
times, and less so at other times. We learnt models for designing effective community projects which came in handy once we were in Rugazi. The highlight of our days were always the 11am break for tea and mandazi (dense doughnuts).

As most people heard in the news, a case of Ebola was confirmed in the Kasese region of Uganda during that week. Given Kasese's position (right against the porous Congolese border) beside the North Kivu region of the DRC where the disease still rages uncontrolled, this news did not come as a surprise. Since the outbreak in the DRC had been declared last summer, it had always been a question of when rather than if Ebola would jump the border. However, the fact it happened on June 11th threw our travel plans in for a loop. We suspected that the U of S or the Canadian government would evacuate us from Uganda, especially as two more cases were confirmed in Kasese and several cases were suspected in Kanungu. Rugazi is located between these two provinces and is separated from the DRC by the Queen Elizabeth National Park, so we figured it was the virus’s next stop on the map.
Time for breakfastTime for breakfastTime for breakfast

Introducing Ugandan milk tea and fried mandazi
However, the Ugandan ministry of health was prepared as thousands of healthcare workers in the region had already been immunized and there was education programs in place to stop the spread of the disease. The Ebola cases were repatriated to the DRC, and security tightened up. The American students who were with us still got pulled from the program, but thankfully, we were allowed to stay.

I can’t deny that the uncertainty surrounding our safety was nerve-wracking, and it was easy to imagine worse-case scenarios during that week. Seeing the other international students flock away like migrating birds while we stayed behind left us feeling strangely vulnerable. However, it turned out for the best since there was no other Ebola cases after the initial outbreak, and a doctor and a nurse educated all of the students on how to protect themselves from Ebola in a healthcare setting. Dr. Rose and Sister Rosa have been working in prevention and treatment of viral hemorrhagic fevers since the Gulu outbreak of 2000. Just seeing them standing and lecturing in front of us dispelled a bit of the fear and mystery around Ebola since it was proof that that people are able to be in contact with the disease and stay safe as long as they protect themselves adequately. And anyways, aren’t we all future healthcare professionals? Isn’t it our responsibility to face situations like this one during our careers? No one asks to get Ebola, HIV, or the next big disease, but it happens anyways, and if we run, to whom will people go for help? We need to be ready to manage and treat their conditions while ensuring our own safety, because or else, the most important person in healthcare will suffer: the patient.

On that note, I will sign off. Next stop: Rugazi!

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