Saturday, 28 February 2009

Our First Week in Uganda

Hi and welcome to our first blog post! I know it's taken a while, but we've not been able to connect to the internet as often as we'd have liked.
First impressions of Uganda are really positive. It's completely different to how I imagined it, but in a good way.
After arriving at Entebbe airport, we were taken to a conference centre near Kampala. It was set in beautiful grounds and although our room was pretty basic (ie no hot water!!), it was adequate. I was surprised by the amount of wildlife we saw there - there were monkeys playing in the garden, geckos, kites and massive eagles. We were in the conference centre for 5 days, where we received training from the VSO staff in Uganda on various aspects of our placements - security, transport, culture and even a bit of language learning. The area of Uganda we're going to (the South-West) uses the local Runyankore language, which is completely different to anything we've ever tried to learn. We picked up a few basic phrases but are hoping we'll be able to find someone in Mbarara who can teach us a bit more.
We went out on Thursday night with the other volunteers, to celebrate two of their birthdays. We found a lovely Indian restaurant in Kampala, and even though I claim not to like Indian food (as most of you will know), I really enjoyed it. Maybe that was because it was nice to have something different to the Ugandan cuisine we'd been eating at the conference centre. On the whole, I haven't found the food to be that bad. The only thing I really don't like is Matoke, which is the staple food here, so I suppose I will have to learn to like it! It is steamed plantain, which is then mashed, and gets served in a big lump. Jason says it's okay if you mix it with some kind of sauce, but I'm not convinced yet!
Yesterday we were collected by the Dean of the Medical Faculty at Mbarara University - he seems like a really nice man. Then we started our long long journey to Mbarara. It took 5 hours to get here, on bumpy pot-holed roads, so we were both relieved to arrive here. At the moment we're staying in the University Inn, as our flat won't be ready for a few days. It's nice, but 'creatures' can get in, as the windows are not all screened. There was a massive gecko in the bathroom last night, but at least he might eat the flies and other creepy crawlies! Luckily we have a mosquito net over the bed, so nothing can get us when we're asleep.
Today, the Head of the Pharmacy Department came to meet us and took us on a tour of the university and hospital. Everyone so far seems friendly, but I won't really know what they expect me to teach until next week. Will update you all soon!!