It’s hard to believe I’m almost a third of the way through my twelve-week internship! This week, I am in Western Uganda doing what we call “monitoring support and supervision” in three different districts. My colleagues and I have been meeting with the top education officials in each district, as well as visiting lots of schools and observing teachers in their classrooms. It has been really enlightening to actually visit Ugandan schools, and exciting to see this literacy program in action. These visits have done a lot to dispel some of the stereotypes that I held about schools in developing countries (which is embarrassing, especially after all my IEDP courses!), and it has been really humbling to see the creative ways that teachers make use of locally available materials to create learning aids for their students, and the ways they are employing learner-centered pedagogies in their classrooms.
Classroom observations aren’t the only thing that’s been humbling about this week…Western Uganda is home to the Rwenzori Mountains, the biggest mountains in the country. Many of the program schools are located in the foothills of the mountains, and the journey to get to them is no joke. Today, one of the schools we visited was so far up that we had to leave the car and hike up a VERY steep trail for 40 minutes before we came to the school. We were sweating in our work clothes by the top, yet many students and teachers make a climb like this every day to get to and from school. It makes my own thirty-minute walk to work look like a piece of cake, although I will say the views from the mountains are amazing. Spending the week here, I can definitely see why Uganda is called “the Pearl of Africa.”
Outside of work, I am actually starting to feel like I live in Kampala! Here are some of my favorite things about the city, now that I’m starting to settle in.
- Running: If anyone else from my cohort reads this post, they are probably rolling their eyes that I’m talking about running on my blog post. But I’ve finally found my favorite running routes! Traffic, uneven (or nonexistent) sidewalks, and a lack of road rules make running here an experience not for the faint of heart, but I’ve discovered the swanky and quiet neighborhood of Kololo, which is perfect for after-work runs. Kampala is very hilly, which makes for a great glute workout, but also for some pretty amazing city views!
- The food: On every corner it’s easy to buy fresh, cheap fruit and veggies, especially mangoes, pineapples, and HUGE avocados. While I have tried local staples, like posho (a maize-based starchy dish), and eaten my fair share of matooke (a type of banana, usually served steamed and mashed), I’m embarrassed to admit I’m a bigger fan of the abundance of inexpensive and delicious Indian food available here. Not to mention you can have pretty much any kind of cuisine delivered to your door using Kampala’s own food delivery app…
- My porch: I’ve moved in to a guest house run by a local artist and his brother, and live there with them and a few other international girls that are also here for internships. Our porch has become a gathering place for us all to hang out, read, and eat our meals, and I love being able to spend so much time outside!
To be transparent, there are of course some things that are hard to get used to about Kampala, such as:
- Not being able to walk at night: I love to walk, and walk whenever I can. But as soon as it gets dark I don’t feel comfortable walking, both for security and because the streets are SO dark that I’m convinced I’ll break an ankle.
- Power outages: Before I left, someone told me to bring a headlamp and thank goodness they did! Power outages are relatively frequent and most of the time they don’t last too long, but last week we had three that lasted almost 24 hours each.
- Cold showers: It’s been hard to get used to washing myself in a cold trickle of water, especially when it’s combined with a power outage. However, I’m slowly adopting a more low maintenance attitude, and my hair is actually probably thanking me for (A LOT) fewer washes.
Outside of Uganda, an unexpected holiday gave me a chance to hop on a last-minute bus, cross the border into Kenya, and check out Kisumu! Kisumu is Kenya’s third-largest city, but feels much quieter than Kampala. It’s on the shores of Lake Victoria, so I spent my trip eating fresh tilapia on the beach (no forks and knives here – you get served a whole fish and pick it apart with your hands) and enjoying the sunsets.
For my fellow cohort members interning in Kenya (or anyone else who happens to read this), I would definitely suggest a visit to Kisumu…but only after visiting Uganda, which I have come to love and appreciate so much in the past month, and I am excited for what’s to come!