Sunday, May 30, 2010

Week 1 - Kampala Orientation

It is now my fifth day of being in Uganda. It has been a crazy experience so far and I have been loving every minute of it. This city seems to live in a sort of organized chaos. The traffic is out of control and essentially pandemonium free-for-all, except for Sundays (which happens to be today), when the streets are almost clear of anyone.

When we first arrived at the airport, George, one of the staff members of Katosi met us and took us to out hotel in downtown Kampala. We loaded up into a taxi, called a matatu, and I was momentarily confused by the driver getting in on the right side until I remembered that Uganda was first a British colony. The city population has grown faster than it has developed and the roads are in shambles. I think there may be one or two roads here that are actually paved, the others are littered with pot-holes and bumps or simply a lack of pavement. It isn't too bad if you know what to expect, just don't come here expecting anything close to an effective and nice transportation system. Not many people drive themselves and the two main forms of transportation are matatus (van-sized taxis) and boda-bodas (a hybrid between a motocross bike and a motorcycle). The streets are full of these two vehicles and they definitely do not stop for pedestrians much less each other. "Look before crossing" has taken on a whole new meaning.

On our first day, we ate breakfast near our hotel at "The Bread and Cake Shop" and then we got escorted around Kampala by Andrew and Ben. They took us to Oweeno where we bought our cell phones and were overwhelmed by the massive market full of every type of good you could imagine. I'm sure we were a sight to see, nine American girls walking through the Oweeno market looking somewhat overwhelmed and definitely out of place. We then headed over to the crafts markets on Buganda Road and sat at nice coffee shop called 1000 Cups. It seems to generally attract only white customers and was much much calmer than the oweeno market. We then toured Garden City conveniently located near our hotel and complete with a movie theater, bowling alley and supermarket. Not what you expected? Me neither.

We stayed at the New City Annex Hotel on Dewinton Road. It is located in the heart of Kampala near some fancy hotels, banks and parliament. The staff was very accommodating and the rooms weren't bad at all. We had three to a room and access to a bathroom and toilet (note the distinction). The restaurant downstairs also had good food for all three meals and was reasonably priced.

On our second full day here, the four Katosi Womens Development Trust interns had orientation at the Katosi main office in the Lungujja district of Kampala. The office also happens to be my home for the next eight weeks. Scarlett and I will be sharing a room in the office (which really is more like a house) right across the hall from Vaal, the administrative assistant. The office is very pleasant and I'm excited to move out there tomorrow. Lungujja is not in the heart of Kampala and is much quieter and calmer than the bustling downtown. The office is situated directly next to a church and a small orphanage. In my down-time I would love to volunteer at the orphanage and attend some of the church services.
We stayed at the Katosi office all morning and then had lunch with the staff. Reheema gave us an overview of what Katosi stands for and all the ongoing projects. We then discussed the roles of the interns and talked about some of our desires and expectations for the summer. After a quick tour of the house, the three other interns and I sat outside and played with some local children while we waited for lunch to be served. It started as a simple paddy-cake game and turned into a big dancing circle with a lot of singing that I didn't quite understand and jumping around and laughing. I'm sure they all ran home after to tell their friends they had talked to and played with a Mzungo.

After talking with Reheema and Vaal today, I am excited to start working with Katosi on Monday. I am going to be helping with grant proposals, project write-ups and expanding their international donor base. I hope to work with Global Giving and set up an account for Katosi and get some of their projects up on the site. I am pumped about the possibilities for what I can get involved with and excited to learn more from these incredible women. I will be sure to keep you updated with any new events!

This morning, Scarlet and I moved into our room in the Katosi office and are getting settled in and resting. It has been a week of getting introduced to this city and I can't wait to explore it more!

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