For my MSc thesis project, we had a choice of going abroad to do some field work, or staying in London. Naturally, I chose going abroad. Not that London is boring, but the lab work is kind of tedious so I figured I may as well do it in a new and even more exciting city – Kampala, Uganda. I’m here with a coursemate Sarah (as our school was hesitant to send one white girl out on her own). The lab work will take up to 5 weeks (6 if things go wrong), but I opted to stay for 8. I might be doing some spatial analysis and GPS work with malaria, so I’m hoping I can go into the field with a GPS receiver and map an unknown part of the world. Otherwise, I will travel this gorgeous country with only my backpack!
I’ve never had the opportunity to go to any African country, so here are my first observations:
1. There is red dirt EVERYWHERE. At the end of the day, I thought my feet were tanned. Nope, just red dirt. It gets everywhere. Apparently it’s unique to sub-Saharan Africa (and Australia).
2. Sticky is the new normal. I felt it as soon as we got off the plane. By 9:30am, it was +27C with a humidity of 97.9999999%. I’m used to dry hot summers, so as soon as I stepped out onto the tarmac, it’s like someone could have poured water over my head. Ok, I’m exaggerating a little… That’s what I felt like an hour into my 8 week journey though.
3. That said, deodorant and perfume are my new best friends. I tweeted that I left my blow dryer at home on purpose (I’ll be French braiding my hair all the time). I should have left my makeup as well. Have you every been underwater in makeup? Because that’s what I feel like ALL THE TIME. I hope I acclimatize soon.
4. I haven’t seen ANY road markings. Not one. This place is a giant traffic jam and boda boda’s (taxi motorbikes) weave in and out of cars. I thought London was tame.
5. In order to walk in the streets in Kampala (highly don’t recommend if you’re a white female – story will follow), you jaywalk. And I don’t mean the kind where you look both ways before making sure no cars are coming, I’m talking the oh-there’s-a-fifty-centimeter-gap-let’s-go-NOW kind of jaywalking. Sarah and I followed two local women and decided to be their inconspicuous shadows in order to cross the road properly. We thanked them for the unknowing help and they looked at us and laughed.
6. Fruit. Fruit fruit fruit fruit fruit. It’s amazing and we can’t get enough of it. We went to a supermarket (a local one is kind of far away), and found two kinds of mangoes, passionfruit and pineapples. Our dinner consisted of the most delicious mangoes that were probably picked off the tree that day and passonfruit so delectable you wanted to eat the skin. I can’t wait until the pineapple ripens and we explore more fruit. Dinners = fruit.
7. White skin = money. You’re often regarded as superior. We sit first, we eat first and we enter rooms first. It’s tough to adjust as I feel like very much a foreigner, but it’s not my country.
8. The views are gorgeous:
9. As are the wild flowers!
10. For a country that is on the equator, you would think people would want to wear the least amount of clothing as possible. No, no… what you expect is not what happens in Uganda. Women wear skirts past the knee and shoulders are covered. Very conservative. I’m glad I had Q go charity-store-shopping with me for some “Africa wear!
11. Highlight of my first day though…. I SAW MONKEYS!!!! Equivalent to foxes roaming London and rabbits infesting Edmonton, monkeys take residence around houses! Something VERY unexpected but most welcomed when I walked out of our house!
Spot the monkeys!!!! I took way too many pictures of them!