Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Beginning of the End - Arriving in Kampala

So I may get back to my India blogging, but then again, now that I am in Uganda, I may just forget writing about the rest of India and just move on to my last and final location of my world wide medical student tour.

I flew out of Minneapolis on Friday, April 6 at about 3 in the afternoon. My mom and sister brought me to the airport after we stopped and had lunch with my brother in St. Paul. When I got to the airport, my one checked bag was 6lbs overweight. Even though I was given 2 free check bags each 50lbs which means I should have gotten 100lbs of weight to bring, Delta was going to charge me $90 for my 6lbs overweight bag. I refused to pay that and I didn't have another bag to check, so I unloaded my shampoo and conditioner and some other liquid things that I had planned to bring and got my bag down to 50lbs. Going through security was a breeze and I sat at my gate for a little over an hour before we boarded the plane for Amsterdam. The flight to Amsterdam was entirely uneventful as all good flights are. I ended up sitting next to a girl around my age who works for the CDC and was also headed to Uganda for 4 weeks to do a project here. The slightly less than 8 hour flight went by relatively quickly and we made it to Amsterdam. I didn't sleep at all on the flight and was quite tired by the time we arrived in Amsterdam. The airport is not very conducive for sleeping, but as I was tired, I still managed to sleep for an hour on the tiled floor.
I boarded the plane to Kampala with a stop over in Kigali, Rwanda and the flight was relatively empty so I ended up with a row to myself. The guy sitting in the row next to me was a really nice guy from Texas who was going to Uganda for the second time to do some military training for the Ugandan soldiers. He has been to Africa several times and has loved all of his trips. It was great to get a bit of insight prior to my arrival especially with regard to trips to take on the weekends! This flight was also uneventful and I made it to Kigali and then to Kampala without problem. On this flight I only slept for about an hour as well.

Once I arrived in Entebbe (about 35km south of Kampala and the location of Uganda's international airport), I was quickly able to retrieve my bag and get my Ugandan visa ($50). The whole thing went so smoothly and as I walked out of the baggage claim area, I saw a man with a sign with my name on it who I presumed was the person sent from the school to pick me up. He and his wife welcomed me warmly to Uganda and we got into the Makerere University van. It was unfortunate that it was night (10:30 or so) when I arrived so that I couldn't see the scenery on my ride from Entebbe to Kampala. But I was quite tired and ended up falling asleep on the ride to Kampala. I was brought to my housing - the Edge House - on the Makerere campus and was greeted again very warmly by Lucy and Nasser who run the house. None of my housemates were around as the Easter weekend provided for a long holiday weekend so everyone was gone. I was okay with that as I was really tired and after unloading my things, I fell asleep and slept until nearly 11am on Sunday morning.
Sunday was a very relaxing day. I wrote my blog about Goa, did some reading, took a nap on the outside porch, went shopping for some groceries and the toiletry items I was forced to leave behind in Minneapolis, and enjoyed being in my new home. One of my housemates, Cecilia from Sweden, returned from her weekend trip with her boyfriend and it was really nice to meet the both of them. Cecilia has already been here for 4 weeks and will be here for another 2 months so we will get to know each other quite well I think by the time she leaves at the beginning of June. Sunday night Nasser took me to get a SIM card for my phone and also get some data so I can connect my phone to the internet. It was so easy - we just asked for a SIM card and got it. Then I bought the airtime and it worked. So easy.
Monday morning I slept in quite late again and was woken up by Lucy when a Makerere medical student arrived to take me on my orientation tour. I had to quickly get ready and then headed for my tour. Along with me were two other medical students from UCLA who had also just arrived. We first met with the international student coordinator, Susan who was very friendly. Then we took a tour of Mulago Hospital where we will do our clinical rotations. Finally, our orientation ended with a tour of Kampala itself - the city center and downtown. It was really cool to see some more of the city and kind of get some idea of the layout. Kampala is a much cleaner city than Bangalore and the sidewalks are actually walkable. It's definitely not as crowded nor is the traffic anywhere near the level it was in Bangalore. So far, I am really loving it here. The only bad thing that happened on our tour was that near the taxi park in downtown, a man tried to steal the necklace off of one of the other medical student's neck. He did not succeed and she was okay, but it definitely raised all of our heart rates a bit and made us keep a little tighter hold on our bags.
When I returned to Edge House late that afternoon, I met the rest of my housemates and my roommates. The group is fairly international although the majority of students are either from the US or England. We have one from Sweden and one from Holland. It was one of the American's birthday on Monday so 12 of us that are living in the house went out for dinner together to celebrate. Everyone has been so friendly and welcoming and I feel like I am at home already. I am so happy to be hear and think that this will for sure be the overall best of my experiences yet.
I am writing this on Tuesday after my first official day at Mulago but I will save the going-on of today for the end of the week when I can recap my first week of Ob/Gyn at Mulago.

Location:Kampala, Uganda

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