First Days in Uganda
I made it! After about 30 hours of travel, I arrived at Entebbe International airport. It was midnight, I was tired, I was trying to safely take out money from an ATM while keeping an eye on all my bags, and hoping someone was outside waiting to pick me up. I admit that walking outside of the airport in the dark of night was scary and uncomfortable. Thankfully, a driver from the embassy was there for me and we quickly made our way to my temporary accommodations.
The next morning, I couldn’t wait to step outside and see Uganda in the day light. It was surreal. Was I really there? Was I really so far away from home? It was beautiful, green, and a bit noisy. I tried to take it all in. The institute I’m staying at hosts a fair trade farmer’s market twice a month. I enjoyed chatting with some others and trying Ugandan chocolate, coffee, and a bbq brat. That night I went to the library and started talking with some of the young interns who live and work there. ALI Leadership Institute is an amazing organization that helps provide accommodation, healthcare, and leadership skills to young adults living with HIV. We played scrabble, and then they taught me a card game, and I taught them one. We stayed up until 11:00 playing games. I couldn’t have had a better first day.
Monday morning was another free day. I wanted to get out and explore. The institute called a driver for me and I went to the local mall where there is an ATM, large supermarket, and a few restaurants. From the mall, I walked to the Entebbe Botanical Gardens. For a small fee, a guide will take you around and tell you about the plants and birds. It was well worth the $2.50 fee! Entebbe is GREEN. So many trees. Monkeys are also running freely. Entebbe is next to Lake Victoria, the second biggest lake in the world.
This morning (Tuesday), my supervisor from the capital & embassy came to pick me up and show me some housing options as well as get a SIM card and Ugandan phone number. It was a bit of an overwhelming day because I’m not used to making large financial decisions without Albino. So deciding and negotiating the price of an apartment as well as a phone plan had me outside of my comfort zone. Also, they wanted three months rent upfront in US cash. HA! I did not travel with that kind of money. It’s all been sorted out and I’m moving into my apartment tomorrow! I do have to go into the embassy tomorrow to withdraw US cash, and thankfully they are sending me a secure driver and car to do that. My new apartment is a nice home in a secure compound. It’s more than I ever dreamed of (secure, clean, furnished, has wifi availability). It’s also within walking distance to my university, about a kilometer. I’ll write a post soon once I’m in, but for now, here’s an outside shot.
Overall, this has been a great few days. However, I should say that it’s not all rosy & perfect. I was sick on day one, no one from my work/program gave me instructions for these first two days. I was completely on my own in a sense. Thankfully, I chose to stay at this institute because they have been so helpful and fun to hang out with. Transportation is not easy. Local public transportation is not very safe and it has been recommended not to take it. That means private drivers/taxis which are more expensive and usually have to call in advance to come. For this reason, I’ve chosen to live near the university so I don’t have to rely on transportation daily. That means I’m not super close to Entebbe Town, but I’d rather take a ride into town once or twice a week than every day.
Thanks again for all of you have been supporting me and following along. It’s just beginning!