Africa is a long trip

May 24, 2012 —

Thirty-six hours of travel and I’m finally in Kampala, Uganda. I’m rotating at Mulago Hospital through Makerere University College of Health Sciences for the next four weeks. There are 3 other DMU students here this month and medical students and residents from all over the world training at Mulago.

My plane landed in Entebbe and I can’t think of any airport arrival more breathtaking. We walked down the stairs onto the tarmac in the middle of the green hills dotted with terra cotta roofs. After immigrations and customs, I found James, the driver sent to pick up students, and we headed to Kampala. On a two lane road, you have three or four modes of transportation in one lane each way and congestion is an understatement – cars and trucks, bota botas (motorcycle drivers that rent the extra one or two seats), bicyclists and pedestrians all in one lane and the shoulder. The colors and smells overwhelmed me. Tiny eight-foot by eight-foot rooms with a roof line both sides of the road and house the businesses of tailors, sandals being fashioned from old tires, airtime card sales, chipati bread  (tasty local take-away sandwich), Rolexes, auto oil sales – you name it. If you can sell it, there is a small building for it. There are also lots of brick buildings being built that are two or three stories and, if you look into the city centers, taller 20-30 story shiny buildings live among the banks and ground level vendors.

The road from Entebbe blends into the road to Kampala – it was hard to tell where Entebbe ended and Kampala began. After dropping off my suitcase at NUFU House on Makerere’s campus, James took me to the medical school offices on Mulago Hospital grounds. NUFU is a five-bedroom house on university grounds. We each have a room with a desk and bed with mosquito net. We share three bathrooms, and the NUFU caretaker/office manager Margaret serves toast, coffee and fresh mango or watermelon juice every morning for breakfast. Depending on the day, samosas, banana bread or boiled eggs are also served. It’s a nice way to get to know my house mates.

I was able to take in a little bit of Kampala on Saturday and tagged along with a housemate to a coffee shop that ended up not having wifi but did have the most wonderful coffees and smoothies. We had lunch out and it was the most amazing Indian food I’ve ever had. After that we trekked to the Baha’i Temple and I learned a lot about their faith It’s a very beautiful and peaceful belief system. There is one temple on each continent and the African Temple is here. On the walk home, we stocked up on water and some fruits and veggies – jack fruit is the strangest fruit I’ve come across and it’s a delicious flavor blend of slight banana and mango. Saturday was certainly a day of acclimation and soaking in the city.


If you asked five-year-old Beth what she wanted to be when she grew up, she would have answered, “a doctor.” After receiving her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and beginning her career in graphic design, she realized that five-year-old Beth was onto something which sparked her journey in medicine. Beth is a third-year medical student from Des Moines, IA. Currently on an elective rotation in Kampala, Uganda, she is spending two weeks in labor and delivery and two weeks in infectious diseases. When not working on school, her favorites include time with friends, family, and her dog Fiona, design and photography, traveling, canning, and working on the Community Interfaith Worm Project.

Comments

  • Simon K. Mugerwa

    Hi Beth,

    The moment I saw Kampala, Uganda, I knew I had to read the entire post! I was born and raised in Kampala, but came to the US to attend University, and ended up staying for longer than I had hoped! I have just completed 23 credits towards my MPH at Des Moines University, and plan to put it to good use when I retire back to Uganda in 2015, the good lord willing.

    Mulago hospital is very dear to me, because I was born there in 1952! The larger hospital was built in the 60′s. I am sure you have noticed how poorly equipped the hospital is, yet it is supposed to be the best in the country! Many of the best docs have left to either work in the west, or in neighboring countries where the pay and working conditions are much better. Thank you for your service in Uganda, albeit, a very short one. Please DO NOT be tempted to ride on those “boda boda” bikes you described, as they can be extremely deadly. If you get a chance, stop by the casualty department (another name for the ER!) and see how many cases are there, due to accidents involving boda bodas. Please enjoy your stay in Uganda, and do all you can to be safe. All the best.

    Simon