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:)

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