The photo is of me and Grace, the son (yes, it's a boy's name here) of a Dutch friend from Masindi. We were on our way back from Mbarara to Kampala last week and stopped at the Equator - Mbarara is in the southern hemisphere and Kampala is in the northern hemisphere. It's one of those obligatory things that every tourist who visits Uganda has to do!
Quite a lot has happened since my last posting...... I finished working at the hotel at the end of April. It was really hard telling the staff that I was leaving, many of them were quite upset and really wanted me to stay - staff morale is very low and times are hard for them. I wish I could have done more for them but unfortunately the situation was out of my hands. I'll keep in contact with many of them though and hopefully will have the opportunity to visit them in the future. Although my placement in Masindi didn't work out, which was disappointing, I made some good friends there, both Ugandans and other VSOers - I'll miss them all.
The last few weeks had been quite unsettling - the thought of having to start over again in a new place was hard, but I'm certain I want to stay in Uganda and do my 2 years as planned. So sadly, after packing up my house I left Masindi last week and am now staying in Kampala. I've been looking for a new placement and think I've now found one, which fingers crossed should work out ok.
I'm hoping to move to Mbarara, about 4 and half hours SW of Kampala, (Masindi was 2 and a half hours NW of Kampala) next week, with an organisation called Healthy Child Uganda - check it out at http://www.healthychilduganda.org/. It's a community-based partnership that works with local citizens to identify and solve the problems that most impact their children’s health. They focus on healthy practices such as immunization, good nutrition and preventing disease, training volunteers to recognize and treat sick children within their communities. The project gets most of its funding from Canada and has very strong links with the University of Calagary - it's was set up as a partnership between the University of Calagary and Mbarara University if Science and Technology. I'll be involved in lots of different activities, such as community visits as part of a community-based food education programme, training trainers to work with village people re. nutrition and health, there's also work to be done with Mbarara University setting up a adult trainers curriculum, advising villagers on setting up small businesses selling local produce. Mbarara is a nice place, much bigger than Masindi, it has more of a large town feel to it. There are lots of other VSOers there and many other ex-pats working at the university, it's location is also good for travelling with some really good national parks within easy travelling dsitance.
Other than my original placement going 'pear shaped', I'm enjoying Uganda, life here is so different, but I'm feeling settled now (job aside). It's a beautiful country, there's so much to see and do. The people are great, they're always really welcoming - they have so little and everyday seems to be a battle to make ends meet and to survive, but yet they have tremendous hope and are always smiling.
At the moment I'm in Kampala - VSO arranged for me to stay in a small studio appartment while I wait for my next placment to be sorted. Kampala is a crazy city, the traffic is unbelievable (there is no such thing as Rules of the Road here) and the fumes from numerous poorly maintained vechicles are choking. It's not really a city for sightseeing as walking around is not really an option, even though I have been, much to the amazement of the staff at the VSO office - Ugandans are not great walkers, if they can afford to, they'll travel by boda boda (small motor bike taxis or bicycles with a padded seat on the carrier) or by matatu (small mini buses that are usually stuffed full of people). I was fortunate in Masindi that it was such a small town so it was possible to walk everywhere.