Uganda – The first 10 days!

I have been in Uganda for 11 days now and it is a great experience so far. The first 6 days were spent on a safari with our new friend and guide Frank Atube (from Entebbe). Ilse wasn’t with us yet so it was myself, and three of the Global Vets students from WCVM, Elad, Tara, and Devon. Here is a very short summary: we did a walking safari to see white rhinos, game drive in Murchison Falls (saw the big 5 and several other species of wildlife, and hiked the falls – simply beautiful), tracked chimps at Kibale National Park, another game drive in Ishesha National Park (part of Queen Elizabeth National Park), tracked gorilla’s in Bwindi National park, and swam and canoed at Lake Bunyonyi. What a breathtaking experience! I would highly recommend all of the above to any persons interested in travelling to Uganda!
In the days following safari, Ilse arrived and the five of us embarked on our journey to Mbarara to begin our work on the goat pass-on project. On our way to Mbarara from Entebbe we stopped off in Kampala to visit the veterinary college at Makerere University. First we met Martha who is going into her 5th year of wildlife biology; she was so nice and stayed with us all afternoon to help bring us to people we wanted to meet and gave us a tour around the campus. We were able to meet Dr. John Nizeyi (the Uganda Coordinator), Dr. Sam Okech, and Dr. Nakanjako Maria Flavia of AFRISA (Africa Institute for Strategic Animal Resource Services and Development). They were all very welcoming and Dr. Nizeyi invited us to attend a One Health conference at the beginning of July. At this conference we will be able to listen to presentations by other groups and maybe get a chance to share our experience and progress on the goat pass-on project.

We then toured the pathology unit and the small animal clinic followed by a nice lunch at a canteen on campus. We had traditional chicken stew with Irish potatoes (boiled with parsley sprinkled on top), matooke (mashed plantain), and more of the delicious ‘Krest’ or bitter lemon drinks that Ilse had mentioned. After lunch we were lucky enough to have a meeting with the Dr. Ludwig Seifert, in hopes to set up a time to do volunteer work with him during our stay here in Uganda. Dr. Seifert is a professor at Makerere University, a wildlife veterinarian, and he does a lot of work with sustainable community development. He was very friendly and is willing to have us hang out with him for about a week to learn and help out with his work.

From the University, Frank drove us to the bus station in Kampala where we would catch our bus to Mbarara. It was not quite like a bus station back in Canada. We hadn’t even stopped the car and we had several drivers come up to us to find out where we were headed and told us to take their bus over the others. Once stopped, some men began to open the van doors to help us with our bags, we didn’t quite know which bus we were going to be taking at that time and some of our bags just about drove away without us!! It was a busy and fun experience that was saved by Elad when he stopped the bus with our bags on it. After a peaceful bus ride we made it to Mbarara after dark and were picked up by Vivian, the administrator and program director for Foundation for Aids Orphaned Children (FAOC). We had heard and read so much about FAOC and Vivian so it was wonderful to finally meet her.

We have now been in Mbarara for three days and we have begun to make some progress on planning and organizing our summer work. So far we have made a summer schedule of community meetings we hope to attend in which we will discuss any issues about the community members’ general well-being and problems and/or successes with the goat pass-on scheme and goat health. We also hope to do a paravet refresher training course in the third week of June to ensure the current paravets are happy with how their work is going and to provide continuing education and support with their veterinary services.

We have now ridden ‘boda boda’s’ several times, these are basically motorcycle taxis that can fit up to three passengers plus the driver, but we only put on two of us at most on one boda. It costs us 2000.00 shillings to get to town, which is about 0.85 cents, not bad! We are enjoying daily feasts of fresh mango, pineapple, watermelon, lemons, passion fruit, avocados the size of our heads, various breads, and cookies for a treat. The markets are quite fun to shop around in, selling everything from goat meat, live chickens for meat, shoes, kitchen ware, clothing, and much much more!

Although we have only been in Uganda for a short period of time, we have all noticed how welcoming the people are of ‘mzungu’s’ which means white people. We feel that we can ask anybody for help in the towns, and we are getting fare prices for produce. The children are a highlight of our days here as well. We usually don’t walk down many streets without hearing a young child calling out ‘How are you?, How are you?’, or ‘Mzungu! Mzungu!’, and sometimes just ‘Bye! Bye! Bye!’ with excited waving hands. The five of us are also trying to learn a few new words in the local dialect here which is Runyankole. So far we have gotten comfortable saying hello/how are you (Agandi), thank you (webare), madam (Nyabo), sir (sebo), and good morning (Oraire ota). We hope to be able to add a few words each day to our list.

That’s all for now!
Cheers, Katie

Below is a picture of our first boda boda ride!!

Devon, Katie, and driver