Greetings from Kampala! I am in Uganda this summer, interning with an international NGO. Getting to Uganda from the U.S. is not exactly easy. I left for the airport around 1 PM last Tuesday…and landed in Uganda at 10 AM Thursday. The first leg of travel was a red-eye to Amsterdam, followed by a 14-hour layover there. Luckily my aunt lives there, and she picked me up for a day of exploring (as well as a nap and shower!). After that, there was another red-eye to Nairobi, followed by a quick flight to Uganda.
The only major airport in Uganda is located in Entebbe, about 40 km from Kampala. After 40 hours of travel and back-to-back sleepless nights, I decided to spend a couple days relaxing in a backpacking hostel in Entebbe before travelling up to Kampala. It was definitely a good decision! Entebbe is much quieter than Kampala, and is right on the shores of Lake Victoria so it has beautiful views. I caught up on sleep, had my first taste of some Ugandan foods, and explored Entebbe’s botanical gardens – one of the largest botanical gardens in East Africa.
After that, I made it to Kampala. An IEDP alum, Rachel, who has worked at the same organization in Uganda since her own internship with them four years ago, had graciously offered to let me stay at her place while I got my bearings, which was amazing! She helped me conquer my fears of bodas (the motorcycles that everyone takes to get around), and took me to my first party in Uganda, which resulted in a night out until 3:30 AM – way past my bedtime, but apparently early for Ugandan standards. The next day, we went to the pool, which was a good way to distract myself from any Sunday scaries before starting my internship.
Now, obviously I’m not just in Kampala to have fun, so let me tell you a little about my internship. I am working on an literacy program, and will specifically be supporting the program’s teacher professional development efforts.
My first day consisted of getting a tour, meeting people, and learning A LOT. It actually went by pretty fast, but by the end of the day my head was swimming! It was great to get so much information, but I definitely had a lot of my own research and catching up to do. My evening commute was a boda ride home in the pouring rain, dodging puddles, lots of traffic and school children, so that was an adventure! (It is the tail end of the rainy season here, so even though it is generally sunny and temperate, there has been a thunderstorm almost every day I’ve been here.)
When I arrived, the team had just completed a massive training that consisted of four weeks of teacher education workshops all around the country. Although I was sad to have missed this, luckily I got a taste of training and “the field” within my first week. After two days in the office, Wednesday I traveled with some colleagues to Arua, which is a 7-hour drive from Kampala, to observe a workshop for head teachers (the equivalent of school principals in the U.S). The program is focusing on building the capacity of districts to educate teachers in literacy instruction, in order to effectively transfer ownership to local partners and sustain the momentum, so this training was an example of that. Although it was a lot of time in the car, the training was really helpful in getting a better understanding of what the program does. Not to mention, we got to see some baboons, antelopes, and elephants along the way!
At this point, I have officially completed my first week on the job and in Kampala, and this weekend I moved into a new place – an art gallery/guest house run by a Ugandan artist and his brother – and I’m starting to feel like I’m settling in! I’m thankful for how welcomed my colleagues have made me feel, and that I’ve had pros like Rachel to orient me to daily life here. I am looking forward to taking on more responsibilities at the office, and exploring the city and surrounding areas, as well as staying in touch with my cohort to learn what they are up to this summer!