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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Ugandan Cuisine

Last summer I volunteered in Thailand for three weeks. I learned many things about Thai culture that I didn't expect and often found myself surprised by what I was experiencing. Something I unexpectedly loved was Thai food- which I've continued to eat fairly often after returning to America.

With so many cultural shocks coming my way when I travel to Uganda, I continue to be extremely intrigued and excited to eat Ugandan food. I've done a bit of research and found that fish is fairly popular, along with meat or chicken stews! Unfortunately, I don't consume meat or dairy but I love being challenged to find meals that I can eat. In my past experiences abroad, I have found that non meat dishes are spiced better than typical meat dishes (I really enjoy spices and spicy foods). Is anyone excited to experience African cuisine, or any certain dish specially? Obviously food isn't a focus on the trip but I believe it's extremely important when experiencing a new culture and environment.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Safari Excitement

About eight years ago I went to South Africa to visit my Uncle and Cousin. One of the many things we did was go on a safari to see all of the different animals Africa has to offer. I remember right at the beginning of the self guided tour there was an Elephant. He was so beautiful and elegant and was standing about 20 feet from our car. That was the moment I realized I loved Africa. That was not the only time I felt a love for Africa while on the safari. I saw many giraffes running in the distance, rhino babies feeding with their mothers, lions way off in the distance during a evening jeep tour and around 75 elephants in a watering hole. I cannot explain my excitement to see these animals and new ones.

My favorite animal is a Cheetah. I have loved them since I was little. One year for my birthday, my Uncle sent me a stuffed animal cheetah that I still have today. It was one of my most favorite stuffed animals and I still have not seen one in the wild. If I had to choose one animal to see on this trip it would be a cheetah. I was wondering what animals everyone is most excited to see during our trip and why?

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Pre-travel Monologues of Far Away Places

Preparing to travel to countries that are drastically different from our home country may trigger both emotions of excitement and anxiety. Everything you know prior to travel is based on what you have heard from peers/your instructors, or read about or seen via some video footage. But even then, that knowledge does not quash all your curiosities. I remember going through a similar experience when I was preparing to come the US for my graduate studies from Uganda almost two decades ago. I was excited about the opportunity to obtain the highly sought after American MBA degree, making American and  'international' friends, the potential opportunity to finally vastly travel within the US to all the cities I had head so much about i.e. LA, New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Orlando, etc. For a kid who had spent a large part of my life in rural Uganda, what awaited me was unfathomable.

At the same time, I worried about being able to adjust and manage life in this very sophisticated world I had only garnered from films (movies). I had watched films such as Eddie Murphy's "Coming to America" or the Richard Gere and Julia Roberts "Pretty Woman" (some of you are way too young to even recognize these titles!). I had watched and re-watched many of these films and the anxiety of very simple things like being able to use lifts (elevators), or walk on escalators on the right (not left) side with traffic really scared me. Moreover, even though I had spoken English (American) most of my life, I wondered if I would be able to either be understood or to understand others when they spoke. Since I frequently needed to rewind the video cassette whenever I did not quite understand the dialogue in a film, I figured that not having the opportunity to 'rewind' pieces of a conversation would be stressful. I also had now found out that Americans sometimes had peculiar usages of the English language that I was totally unaccustomed to. In the situation I just referred to, saying 'I beg your pardon' was typical English speak I was accustomed. Later, I would find out that Americans sometimes said 'come again' which made no sense to me. I was worried about being understood obviously because I spoke English differently from most I would encounter (I had always assumed that everyone had an English accent depending on where one learned and used the language during their early years of life. So every time someone remarked "you have an accent, where are you from?" My short answer was always Uganda but I was left wondering if I should have added "you too have an accent" in my response). I also worried about being able to talk in terms of pounds, or miles and gallons since I had used the metric system all my previous life. And then there were American sports, a topic I do not even know where to start since to this day this is an area that I have totally failed to fully comprehend. Football (soccer) was going to be a different game for me, and one that was no longer as important as I had known it to be. The teams, their histories, stats, rules of the game, and the amount of information one had to know seemed overwhelming.

These emotions I think are nothing unusual and are simply a mental process that allows us to embrace as best we can the differences we are about to experience in a travel situation. What are those points of excitement or anxiety about this upcoming trip that you can share here? Are there any that you would be curious about what others think or those that need clarification?

Monday, June 12, 2017

Health Care

After 3 weeks in Uganda, my perspective on health care has changed immensely. To start off, I recognized the savior complex in myself, in which I was just assuming what the problems in Uganda were based on the phrase "developing country." However, after doing research by talking to locals as well as Dr. Isaac and Dr. Dixon, I learned that the two biggest problems with health care in Uganda are that 1) Lack of resources and staff in hospitals and clinics, and 2) people cannot afford health care. Another problem that I saw arise from these previous two is, who is responsible for fixing the health care system? The government seems to be useless in this area, as well as many others, so the question is who steps up?

After talking to MUBS students and locals, it was learned that government hospitals are where people go for services and diagnosis, and private hospitals are where they go to pick up medication. Private hospitals are very expensive, and while government hospitals are supposed to be free, they are not. Wait time at government hospitals are extremely long, unless you have the money to pay your way through. Many of us made observations of back-alley clinics and non-regulated facilities, present because of the expensive costs of medical care. MUBS students also enlightened us about witch-doctors, in which many people prefer the traditional, herbal methods of health care. It is evident that there is a lack of education when it comes to health care, whether it be how to take care of one's body, what rights one holds in a medical facility, and expectations they should have of medical staff.

However, despite these issues, I am quite surprised with health care in Uganda. I thought quality of care was a major problem, but after interviewing locals at Kikandwa, they all seemed to be quite happy with the care received by Dr. Isaac. Some said that the quality of medication was not always the best, but in spite of long waits, they were still happy with the care they received. In regards to affordability, Kikandwa clinic is one of few that offers payment plans for services that are too expensive. When shadowing Dr. Dixon, while a private hospital run by a church, Mukono hospital waves fees for minor services that they can, and offer some kind of payment plan only if the patient suggests it first. Yet, there are times where they have to turn a person away for not being able to afford a service.

Personally, after shadowing Dr. Isaac and Dr. Dixon, I am blown away by their knowledge and creativity. Their ways of accommodating for the lack of technology is absolutely incredible. With Dr. Isaac, he was able to tell the position of the fetus' head, the alignment, the heart placement, and due date, all with his hands and use of one hour-glass shaped object to hear the baby's heart. Dr. Dixon, a general practitioner, allowed us to observe him perform a C-section. It is quite uncommon to witness a general practitioner conduct surgical manners, but doctors are needed to be fairly knowledgeable in Uganda since there is an insufficiency of them. Both experiences were amazing, and makes me wonder if we really need all that we are accustomed to in the U.S. whether it be in health care, or other aspects.


How have your personal initial thoughts about Uganda's health care system (or other aspects) changed since your time in Uganda?

Do you think that in the U.S., we rely too heavily on technology for basic check ups and such? Are there any Ugandan methods that should be applied to U.S. medical practices?

Is any part of Uganda's health care system sustainable? Which parts are/are not? Why/ why not? In what ways can it become more sustainable?

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Gender Issues with David Batema

As our last speaker of this Sustainable Development course, David "Sister" Batema came and spoke to us about the many biases that continue to exist within the Ugandan culture that inevitably lead to the ever-present gender inequalities within the country.  Although human rights are nicely laid out within the Ugandan Constitution, Mr. Batema stated that the issue with upholding these rights comes from the idea that when masses of people deem certain aspects of society as "normal", these traditions become embedded within the culture, then migrate into religion, until finally transpiring into laws.  Such is the issue with the societal construct of gender and the inequalities that exist between the laws and expectations that govern the people.

Throughout Sister Batema's speech, I was able to clearly see the the inequalities that surround the women in Uganda, from the divorce procedure they must follow, to them being expelled if they become pregnant out of wedlock, to female students getting a 1.5 GPA point addition. However, although Batema drew to our attention the many unfair circumstances the women face, I feel that he failed to actually explain what he does to change this, and instead he almost just reinforced some of the traditions that hinder human rights development.  This made me question what progressivism looks like in Uganda vs. the U.S. and I believe that it demonstrates just how powerful an impact culture has when it comes to moving towards sustainability.

Questions for Drake and MUBS students:

How do you think the idea of being "progressive" varies based on the U.S. culture vs. Ugandan culture, and are people like Mr. Batema on the road towards making Uganda sustainable in regards to human rights?

How do you feel about female students getting an automatic 1.5 GPA point increase?  Do you think that this helps the students or does it inherently teach them that they are less and cannot/are not expected to achieve as much as male students can?

What does it say about the current state of gender inequalities that Mr. Batema addressed women in the household for a long period of time, but did not mention women in the workforce until he was asked a question about it?  Can his focus lead us to believe that he may have hidden biases that hinder him from being the best women's rights activist?

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Government - Role in Development

Government plays a key role in the development of any community, city, company, or country. In Uganda, the government is often surrounded by controversies of corruption and conflict, but it still is crucial to sustainable development in Uganda.

Our closest experience with the Ugandan government was when we got the opportunity to meet with Parliamentarian Latigo, who is currently involved with the government. According to Mr. Latigo, one of the biggest challenges to sustainable development in government is the lack of functional institutions. When operating efficiently, the Ugandan government has many divisions in place to contribute to sustainable development in its country. Some of these divisions include the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) and the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), which help to improve or maintain roads and follow up on spending on construction projects, respectively. From what we have witnessed so far in Uganda, the government seems to have the most influence on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 9, 11, and 16 which are Innovation and Infrastructure, Sustainable Cities and Communities, and Peace and Justice. Not all of these influences are currently positive, and the parliamentarian suggested that the best way for the people to hold their government accountable was to expect things from it and speak out. Our group has identified social media as a powerful tool for facilitating change in this way.

From what we have witnessed so far, what can be done to ensure the successful completion of roads and buildings that have been started years ago but not yet finished? What can be done to eliminate obstacles to peace and justice in the Ugandan judicial system? With the current structure of phone data plans and internet access, are social media movements feasible? If so, will they be effective? Even if the Ugandan parliament could agree on any major changes, could they implement them in the current political environment?

Tourism: Murchison Falls

The last couple days, our group went camping at Red Chilli North in Murchison Falls National Park. We went on a game drive safari looking at elephants, giraffes, monkeys, warthogs, hyenas, various birds and antelopes, and even one female lion. We sat on the top of the tour busses taking pictures, soaking in the environment, and tooling around the (what seemed like) never ending park. Although we would all agree that we're  pretty sore from sitting on the "seats" (which were just bars on top of the bus) for four hours, I think I speak for everyone when I say that our cameras were filled with pictures and our trip yet again exceeded our expectations. We also went on a boat tour down the Nile observing aquatic animals such as hippos, crocodiles, and snake birds, and we even got a fantastic view of the beautiful Murchison Falls from the boat. The next morning we hiked around the Falls and got an even better view close up! We then packed into our busses and drove to a hotel for lunch, still sweaty from the hike, before making the four hour trek back to our hostel in Kampala. Overall, it was an exciting mini vacation within our vacation, and we got to experience many things unique to Uganda.

I was thinking about tourism while we spent the weekend at the park. What kept running through my mind was how Uganda never seemed like a tourist destination to me, but there are so many vibrant tourist destinations throughout the country that really give a taste into the rich and diverse culture of Uganda. Even 3 weeks ago, I never would have thought to promote the tourist industry in Uganda, but now I realize that tourism creates jobs and brings in revenue to Uganda. Creating jobs for Ugandan citizens such as managing, cooking, cleaning, driving, and all other things involved in a tourist resort allows people from all different disciplines to obtain a steady income. This income will in turn be spent in other markets and industries, which will help to develop the economy. Why do you think it's common for people to come to Uganda to volunteer, but not to tour? Do you think that tourism would help the economy more than volunteering would? What things could Ugandans do to promote tourism for their country?