Monday, 30 July 2012

I am going to Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania. YAY

Sometime in May, I decided that, if by any chance I get a couple of weeks to spare at the end of my project, I would visit another country. Last night I decided that, since I was done with the most import part of my project, I could probably travel somewhere. After, I haven’t had much of a summer vacation because I have been work “hard”.  So, late last night I bought a ticket to travel to Dar-es-salaam (Dar), Tanzania. I would’ve loved to go back home to Democratic Republic Congo (The Congo), but Congo is and has been on top of the red-flagged countries on the U.S National Security website for years. The war that has been going on in the Congo for over 15 years has made the country unsafe to travel to even for a native like me. Since visiting the Congo was out of the question, though it’s right on the border of Uganda, I chose to go to Tanzania. I chose Tanzania because it holds a special significance to me. My history is in Tanzania as much as it is in the Congo.

When the war broke out in the Congo in 1996, my family and I fled to Tanzania where we were taken to a refugee camp called Nyarugusu. In the African tradition, extended families normally live together, either in the same compound or neighborhood.  We lived with my father’s family, so at the time the war started, the entire family fled to Tanzania together since the country had one of the few safe ports that were available to Congolese refugees at the time. I remember fleeing with my parents and siblings, aunts and uncles, grandmother, great-aunts and uncles, and cousins. Upon arriving to Tanzania, we were taken directly to a refugee camp in town called Kigoma. Life in the Refugee camp was a living hell. There was very little food to eat, not enough tents for the entire family to sleep in, no work for the adults, no school for the children; communicable diseases were striking like it was no one’s business. I mean, I was only nine at the time and didn’t know much how life, but I knew life was not easy in that camp. After about six months, my uncles and aunts begin to slow find a living outside of the camp. It was then when the family started to part ways. Some moved Dar-es-salaam, which was the capital city at the time. Others moved other countries, a returned to the Congo regardless of the war, and the rest decided to stay in the camp because the United Nations promised to take care of them. My parents and siblings and I were among the few people who returned to the Congo. My grandma came back soon after. To make the long story short, about 3 years after living the refugee camp, my we found ourselves in the U.S, in Iowa, where we were given a chance to start a new life. My grandma stayed in the Congo with one of my aunts. On February 6th, 2000, I left DR. Congo and parted ways with my grandmother and other relatives. Now, 12 years later, I have a chance to reunite with some of them, including my grandma. I heard she was in Dar-es-salaam for medical treatment. I guess she has some kind of heart disease that I’ve yet to talk to her about. Anyway, I am leaving for Dar tomorrow. I am both excited and nervous about my reunion with my grandmother. It’s been so long since we’ve seen each other that I am not sure she will recognize me when she sees me. In fact, I don’t think any of my relatives would recognize me.

This is all I have for now. Til next timeJ

Another step closer to the finish line:)

It is July 24, 2012, I am finally finished with my research study! Well, for now. I have finished with what I consider the most difficult and important part of my project, the interviews. I still have to Translate, transcribe, and analyze my findings, but at least I am done for now. Unfortunately I didn’t get the number of participants I planned to get; however, I got enough people to still make a sensible analysis etc. The project wasn’t easy; in fact, it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Before December 2012, I knew nothing about designing and conducting a research study. But now, with the help of many great people from both the West and here in the East, I’ve learned a lot about it. I am so grateful for all the people who helped me accomplish my project, especially Dr. Juliet, Dr. Sarah, and Dr. Liz. I don’t know what I would have done without them. Dr. Sarah helped me designed the study and write a proposal, and arranged for me to collaborate with Drs. Juliet and Liz. Drs. Juliet and Liz made arrangement for me to collaborate with the University of Mbarara and Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital. These three woman and made other people were a great help to me.  Words cannot express the gratitude I have for them. I am also very grateful for my family, friends, coworkers, and professors for their support. Their support and encouragement meant so much to me. There were times I felt incapable of traveling to a strange country like Uganda to do something I knew nothing about, but with their encouragement I was enriched with so much strength and confidence that put me exactly were I am today. 

Thursday, 19 July 2012

I've managed to stay busy:)

It’s been a while since I last updated this blog. Since my last post, I’ve had several interviews with participants;  i've gone to my first Ugandan wedding and on a safari to the Queen Elizabeth National Park.

The interviews

Work in progress
I had my first interview with a participant Wednesday July 4th. The participant was a mother of a 3 year-old boy with sickle cell anemia. At first I was reluctant to interview her because she had just found out that son has been diagnosed with sickle cell anemia (SCA) and that the disease was incurable. Any parent who receives such news about their child would probably go crazy. When I approached the woman, she looked disturbed. I could tell she was in shock. Bothering her with research stuff was the last thing I wanted to do, so I thought I would wait until she cooled down a little to tell her about my study. But Dr. Liz, who’s another one of my mentors, suggested that I tell the woman about the study right away because she was being discharged very soon. Since the woman lived in a village that is about three hours away, this was probably my only chance of enrolling her into the study. Dr. Liz was right. When I asked the woman when was the next time she was coming to the hospital, she said she wasn’t sure because she didn’t have money for transport. To make the long story short, I ended interviewing the woman.

 The interview didn’t go as smoothly as I expected. It lasted for about 45 minutes, which felt like eternity. I was so nervous the entire time, and couldn’t wait for it to end. It was my first interview and so I didn’t really know what I was doing.  I was very confident when I first walked into the interview room considering it was not my first time approaching someone about a research study. In Iowa, I was as a student research assistant, so this first interview should have been a piece of cake. But it wasn’t, obviously. In Iowa, I work under someone’s supervision, but here I technically work under my own supervision. Well, I have faculty supervisors, but they are to help me only if I encounter difficulties. It is one thing to be a delegate of a study and quite another to be the principle investigator, and in this study, I am the principal investigator. I spent months developing a proposal for and designing the study. I thought I knew exactly what I am investigating, but my brain seemed to have gone blank while I was doing the interview. I couldn’t figure out what it was wanted from the participants. Eventually, things got easier. The longer I spent in the room, the more comfortable I became. Since the first interview on the 4th, I’ve done 12 more interviews (2 per day). Everything is working well. My goal is to do 10 more interviews by the end of the month.

The wedding: The Bridal Shower

Dora, one of Dr. Juliet (my supervisor/host mother)’s residents, got married on Saturday the 7th of July. Dr. Juliet was in the wedding, so she had to attend all the events that were organized by the wedding party. I was eager to experience a Ugandan so I went along with her to all the events. Besides that wedding, the best part of the wedding things for me was the Bridal shower, which was held the Thursday before the wedding. 

Dora in black, Senga in sky blue
There were about 20 women at the shower. A couple of them were in their mid-20s and there rest of the women were in their 30s and 40s. The event was a surprise so we did all the rituals of a surprise party. All the guests arrived to the house where it was held about an hour before Dora showed up with several other women. When Dora and the women got there, the lights were deemed so that all the people were hidden in the dark. As soon as she walked into the house, everyone came out from where they were shouting, “surprise”. Dora was surprised, indeed. When she heard the shouts, she got scared and almost ran out of the house. 

The women: all eyes on Senga
After the surprise, we ate lots of food, drank wine, and then had “African Tea”; so called because it is prepared with African spices that gives it a tantalizing aroma. After eating, everyone was asked to giving a short speech in Dora’s honor. We all took turns to say whatever we wished to say to the bride-to-be. Most women wished her a happy marriage and advised her to always look appealing to her husband, “always look good” said one woman. “Stay sexy”, said another. After everyone had had a turn, the floor was felt to senga. Senga is an elderly woman chosen by the community to provide marital and sex advice to women who are about to get married. Sanga spoke for about two hours. The talk was long, I thought, but it was very interesting. She talked about to make a good wife, mother, and daughter-in-law. The main focus of her teachings was sex. She gave Dora tips about how to attract her husband to bed; what to do before, during, and after sex with her husband. The conversation was very interesting, but uncomfortable, especially because the majority of the women in the room were much older than I. Also, the fact that Dr. Juliet was there just made everything feel awkward. At the end of sanga’s lessons, the woman asked questions and expressed their concerns about certain things that sanga had said.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to understand everything that was said because the women were going back in forth between English and Runyankore (the local language). Dr. Juliet tried to translate but some of the women complained that we were distracting.

Queen Elizabeth National Park

Before coming to Uganda I promised myself that I wouldn’t go back to the U.S without visiting a national park. Because East Africa has some of the best national parks in the world and it would be ashamed if I just left without going on a Safari. So this past Saturday July 14th, I decided to go on a safari. Safaris are relatively cheap if you do them in groups, but very expensive done alone. I went alone because I couldn’t find anyone to go with. My local friends were interesting in going and my western friends had already gone. I had to rent a Jeep for about $150 and buy fuel, which came up to a total of $140. I also had to hire a guide for $25, entrance into the park for $35, launch (boat) ride for $25, and lunch for about $10.  At the end of the day, I ended up spending $350, which could have been split if I had gone with other people. Though I wasn’t too happy with the money I had spent, I have to say it was well worth. I had so much fun at the mark and saw some of the most interesting anemals that I only seen on TV or the zoo.  The park I went to is called, Queen Elizabeth Park.

Overview of the Park


Queen Elizabeth National Park occupies an estimated 1,978 square kilometres (764 sq mi), of which, about 17% lies in Kasese District, 50% in Bushenyi District and an estimated 33% lies in Rukungiri District. The area of the park extends from Lake George in the northeast to Lake Edward in the southwest, and includes the Kazinga Channel that connects the two lakes.
The park is named after Queen Elizabeth II and was established in 1954. The park was later renamed Ruwenzori before it returned to its royal name. QENP is known for its wildlife, although many animals were killed in the Uganda-Tanzania War. 

Many species have recovered, including hippos, elephants, leopards, lions and chimpanzees; it is now home to 95 species of mammal and over 500 species of birds. The area around Ishasha in Rukungiri District is famous for its tree-climbing lions, whose males sport black manes, a feature unique to the lions in this area.
The park is also famous for its volcanic features, comprising volcanic cones and deep craters, many with crater lakes such as Lake Katwe, from which salt is extracted.
The national park includes the Maramagambo Forest and borders Kigezi Game Reserve, Kyambura Game Reserve and Kibale National Park in Uganda, and the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo -Bradt.
Moi, in front of a dead antelope's head. Eaten by a lion

Buffalo. We disturbed its peace. I wasn't too happy with us:)

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Some Photos (of the people I've met, things i've seen, and places I've been)

At a picnic with some friends
My cousin Christelle, Monique, and Elizabeth and I. I had just met them for the first time in my life. I found out they were visiting Kampala the same time I was there so I decided to look for them.
Cousin Christel and I
We had such a chemistry. Family love
My neighbor. I never asked his name but I wanted his hat:)
My neighbor and his older son
My neighbor's little girls. They are Adorable


Probably the smallest truck I've ever seen

Almost all big houses in Uganda have Orange roofs. It must be a symbol for richness

Lake Victoria in Mengo

The National Catholic Church/Cathedral

Dorothy's sister and I

Public toilet. By the way, Here in Uganda, there's an entrance fee for public bathrooms. You have to pay in order to use them.

Gosh, I was so afraid to use it.  I thought bacteria would jump in me

Downtown Kampala

Kampala traffic

I was at a music open-mic type of thing
Every Sun, Mon, and Wed, the National Theater hosts a show for local musicians and poets who want to showcase their talents

My Ugandan friend Irene and I at a music Jam

I was going to the Mosque right on top of the hill....The Gaddafi Mosque

The Gaddafi/National MosqueIt is located in Kampala along old Kampala road opposite old Kampala secondary school, the original plans of this mosque where designed during Idi Amin era but the sight laid dominant for a long time until 2003 when the President of Libya-Gaddafi, stepped in to fund the whole project from the beginning. 
It's court yard is enormous and so extensive, neat and well maintained, with a vast parking space. A well trimmed hedge runs around the entire landscape making the place look very natural and attractive from a distance.
It's inner part is spotlessly clean and well polished, the stainless glass on it's ceiling made of blue, yellow and green colours helps to light the mason with a mixer of beautiful and lovely colours bringing a sense of holiness and peace in the place.
This mason is a true definition of beauty and greatness. It was designed to hold 10,000, but can actually hold way more than that.
I had to cover myself before going in. They actually put veil and the wrapper on me:)

The tour guide took me up the Minaret (tower of 120 flight of stairs). I could see the whole Kampala from uptair

The National Museum. It was so pretty outside

Learning how to play local instruments

My aunt. I had just me her for the first time as well.

The Equator goes right through Uganda. We crossed it on our way to mbarara

Dr. Nabukera (my mentor) and I

Delicious wine (Cabernet) from South Africa

Oh yes, I was enjoying it very much