Thursday, July 15, 2010

final farewell

Well, it's been a whirlwind of week starting with the bombings here in Kampala.
When I woke up Monday morning, I never expected the series of events that would ensue leading up to today. I didn't find out about the bombings until I opened my email at 8 am and had three emails from the US Embassy. At first I didn't even open them because I figured it was just a reminder to update my contact information or some pointless reminder about living in Uganda. I read all my other emails and then read the first email from the embassy which warned all US citizens to return home because of an "incident" at "the rugby club." The next email had more details about the two bombs and that at least 60 people were confirmed dead.

I spent all day Monday watching the news and reading articles on the terrorist attacks. I researched Al Shabab, the terrorist group from Somalia claiming responsibility for the attacks and listened to the news reports as the death toll slowly climbed higher and higher. Some of my co-workers here at the office lost friends in the explosion and everyone was concerned there would be more bombings.

I emailed friends, family, UNC officials and the Agradu coordinators back home to confirm the safety of all the interns here. Luckily, Scarlet and I are the only two who were in Kampala, and our neighborhood is located on the other side of the city from the sites of the two bombings. Our director assured us that we would be safe where we are, but after talking to my parents and different people from UNC, I have decided that the best course of action is for me to return home early.
It was actually pretty difficult to get my flight changed and Emirates made me jump through tons of hoops to finally get them to put me on a flight on Saturday afternoon. I was hesitant to change my flight right away because I wanted to wait and hear from the Embassy about their stand on the situation, but they have released no other statements since the first Warden's message on Monday releasing basic information about the bombings. After the discovery of a fourth bomb on Monday night at a local nightclub and various bomb scares all over town since then, I feel confident in my decision to leave. I actually went into town yesterday, and it was really weird. It seemed deserted, there were at most half the number of people who are usually out and the traffic was even less than that. Even though there were people were walking around, everyone seemed frightened and very wary of everyone else. Today Avery told me that as she was walking through town with her big backpacking-size backpack that people were asking her (seriously) if she had a bomb in her bag.

It's unfortunate that these are the terms on which I will leave Africa, but I don't think it will greatly tarnish all the memories I have made. I will miss Uganda, especially all the people who I have become friends with over the past two months. Rehema and Vaal gave birth to their babies today (Vaal had a boy, Ethan, and Rehema had a baby girl!) I was looking forward to seeing more of the newborns and hanging out with George and Immaculate at the office. It's been a busy 2 months here; full of grant writing, research, and intern projects. We successfully built tippy-taps, enhanced local sanitation clubs in Katosi and helped train women members of KWDT in book-keeping management and team-building. I've learned a lot being here and had some crazy cultural experiences, too many to count. Living in a foreign country where you are the only white person is an adventure everyday. Just going out to buy vegetables for dinner turns into a performance as children rush out of their houses to stare as you walk by. As much matooke and bananas as I've eaten here, it may be awhile before I even think about anything banana, but for some reason I think that I will actually one day miss it (unclear exactly when that may be)

I'm coming home laden with Uganda items and crafts and tons of pictures of all my experiences. I can't wait to see family and friends and have ice cream and strawberries and blueberries. It's been a fabulous experience Uganda, for my first trip to Africa, you didn't do too bad.