by Madelaine Thiel, Development and Partnerships intern
I am well into my internship at Shanti Uganda and I can’t believe how fast the time is flying by. Ugandan time is “loose” at best and one loses track of time as the heat stretches out the hours. Then the sun sets and before you know it, it is dark within 30 minutes.
I really like my Project Coordinator, Trine. She is a very practical person, and she clearly loves Uganda. She has so much experience here and has learnt to embrace the culture and go with the flow, all the while sticking to principles that prevent her from being swept away by the river. And this RIVER IS WILD. What has surprised me most is how blunt some people are. Ugandans are very polite and hospitable; they are always worried about saying what you want to hear. However, they don’t mind showing up 2 hours late or asking you if you have frequent sex with your husband. Yes, I am married to all drivers and vendors who ask.
My job is starting to look pretty cool. I am applying for grants and will meet with business partners in Kampala. Lately while in the capital, I have been checking out new markets, specifically ones that cater to ex-pats, to sell the handmade jewelry and handbags produced by the women’s income generating group that meets weekly at Shanti. I am also to help procure a new guest speaker for an upcoming fundraiser. Politicians attract the most funds, so we had the Minister of Transport as our VIP speaker but he got arrested this week on corruption charges. Welcome to Uganda.
I was worried that applying for grants was going to be a job easily done from Canada, so I wondered why I was travelling to Uganda to do it. Turns out there are many opportunities for professional development and I am enjoying meeting the staff. Getting to know them and the dynamics of the clinic means that I am better able to assess what exactly they need funding for. I am particularly enjoying Ssanyu, our head mid-wife. She has a lot of great ideas about what she would like to see happen at the clinic and it is always nice to sit down and chat with her. The sunshine is definitely a perk, compared to all the snow back home, so how can I not love Uganda?
The other night, while I was peacefully falling asleep on my top bunk, a cockroach FELL ON MY FACE. I wish I could say I was cool about it, but I yelped loud enough to wake my two roommates. He used the distraction to make his escape. We then searched both bunk bed cots’ linen because the only thing worse than a cockroach is a cockroach you know is there but you can’t see. We eventually found the little guy after he crawled onto the lower bunk and disappeared behind my laundry hamper. Trine, summoned by the sound of our shenanigans, picked it up and flushed it. She said it was dead when she touched it.
A cockroach can survive radioactivity, droughts, pesticides… Crawls into my dirty laundry? Dies.
The funny thing is I was thinking of all the bugs of Uganda right before one fell on my face. I went back to bed thinking of money, ice cream, and grad school acceptance letters.
So far, being Partnership and Development Coordinator has gotten off to a great start!