Saturday, June 8, 2013

Days Seventeen-TwentyThree: Kampala

Today Tessa, Eric and I took the boat into Jinja so that Eric could take care of his goodbyes and a few final meetings before heading back to the U.S. Once everything was tied up there, the three of us grabbed a public taxi to Kampala. It really is fantastic how cheap it is to travel within country here for the most part; the two-hour boat ride from Lingira to Jinja is 4,000Ush and the two- to three-hour drive from Jinja to Kampala is 6,000Ugx, or roughly $4 for both together, even though gas costs about the same as it does in the U.S.
While we had originally planned on checking into Red Chilli, a local hostel for backpackers, Eric first took us to Ham Suites, an apartment complex and restaurant across from Makerere University, for lunch and we decided to splurge on a couple nights in an apartment there. Realize, though, that "splurging" only equates to $50/night split three ways. The apartments give a facade of being very nice and elite, though really the couches were fake leather, the bathroom door was missing its handle, and the TV only showed Ugandan soap operas (possibly the best worst programs I've ever seen).

For Eric's last full Ugandan day, he had set up meetings with three NGOs he had met at a conference during his first week in Kampala: Girl Child Network, Mission for African Mothers (MAM) and Cervican. Tessa and I were fortunately able to meet with the latter two but had a meeting of our own in the morning. While Tessa had set up a meeting with Action on Disability and Development, their address was incorrectly listed and we showed up at the office for Most At-Risk Populations Network, merely by chance. Although this organization didn't prove to be helpful for Tessa's research specifically, they themselves have a network of various organizations dealing with those populations that are most vulnerable to HIV/AIDs. We were able to gain a lot of insight about the challenges and successes of networking with Ugandan organizations which will hopefully prove helpful while we do our own partnering through Tawi.
Both MAM and Cervican are doing great internal work in Uganda as well. MAM, started by Maria M-Otaremwa who is a lawyer by trade, works primarily with the emotional, legal, and economic empowerment of single expectant mothers. Cervican too focuses on this group of individuals specifically but centrally offers sensitization, information, and counseling services regarding cervical cancer. It is only one of few organizations that targets this growing concern. Tawi hopes to be able to connect both of these organizations with WORI in Jinja as part of our mission to create networks and partnerships between NGOs and CBOs within Uganda to increase collaboration, information sharing, and intellectual exchange.

Eric spent his last morning in Kampala with ComeDev, another local NGO that took him around Kampala to show him their programs and those of their partners. After, we checked into Red Chilli and headed over to the Ugandan Arts Village which has many vendors selling various arts and crafts. We found some tapestries, jewelry, and each decided to invest in a large oil painting (or two...) Unfortunately then it was time for Eric to head back to the U.S., so our friend Saturo picked him up to make their way to Entebbe.

Tessa and I spent the morning visiting the Gaddafi Mosque in central Kampala. We were fitted with headscarves upon our entry so we could appropriately have our shoulders covered. The mosque is definitely worth seeing as it is free for Ugandans and only 10,000Ugx for non-Ugandans and includes a tour. Our guide, Muhammad, showed us the main worshipping room, told us a bit about the services and about the Islamic views of Jesus, and answered our many questions. He then took us up the tower, and though we were exhausted and out of breath after climbing 386 steps to the top, it was worth it to see the beautiful view of the entire city of Kampala.
After leaving the mosque we made our way to the art village again to pay off the rest of our paintings and look at the stalls we hadn't made it to the day before. We were beginning to crave something a little more American, so we then wandered over to Garden City Mall. All of the more "Western" clothes, although they were second-hand in nearly every shop, cost about four times what we would ever pay for the clothes, new, in the U.S. 

As most NGOs and CBOs are unavailable on the weekends we decided to see more of Kampala. We had originally planned to go to church with Saturo and his wife Sarah but wanted to be available when Claudia and Andrew got to Kampala. Tessa and I went back into town to find an ATM as we're flying through our money in Kampala before heading to another area of town with arts and crafts stalls. This one, Exposure Africa, had a wider selection and more ornate jewelry and clothing so we again spent too much money...but walked away with really awesome elephant pants. I would recommend this area for arts and crafts as an alternative to the Ugandan Arts Village as there is a better selection, better craftsmanship, and the vendors themselves are less pushy. If you're interested in going there, tell the boda to go to the craft market on Buganda Road.
After the market we decided to check out the National Ugandan Museum, which was just as bad as the reviews warned. Not only has it not been updated for years, with many of the tacky displays being torn or falling down, but even the signs and windows for the exhibits were so dusty that they were illegible. That being said, it was worth going as admission was a mere two dollars and it does have some interesting artifacts and history lessons.

Today is mine and Tessa's last full day in Kampala. She had meetings of her own, so Andrew decided to join me for my two meetings. First, we took a boda to Kiwatule to meet again with Mirjam from Eye4Africa. Getting there was no easy task, despite telling him the directions she had sent me and having her speak to him on the phone four times, we were lost more often than not. After that, he attempted to raise the price of our already expensive boda ride, though I refused. Considering we are already subject to mzungu inflation I wasn't willing to pay more. Our meeting was so good and we are really hoping to be able to have Tawi partner with them. Again, they offer cultural and research training before and during your time in-country as well as individual and group emotional support groups that would be advantageous to our members.
When leaving that meeting we didn't want to deal with any difficult boda drivers again, so we decided to try out the matatus, or pubic taxis. Especially in Kampala, they are much safer and cheaper. While it takes a bit to get the hang of them, including asking the conductor a million questions, we eventually figured them out and used them for all our subsequent transport.
Our afternoon meeting was with Development Research and Training, an organization that compiles population data, especially regarding poverty trends and demographics. Their reports, which come out every five years, were what I had used as a base for my preliminary research so I had hoped to gain more insight into their survey methods. While most of what they said was written directly in the report, it was good to discuss it in person instead of solely using my own interpretation of the text.
Nicole arrived in Entebbe late this evening; it's so great to have all of our travelers here. Unfortunately tonight is one of only a few times I will see her during her two week trip, but it's good that she's finally here nevertheless.

Tessa and I are headed to Jinja this afternoon by public taxi and looking forward to our meetings with many different organizations as well as our homestay during this time. It's hard to believe that we only have two weeks of our trip left!

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