On Sunday morning I was boldly reminded why I could never live in Uganda long(er) term-public transportation. Now before I left Gulu to spend the weekend in Jinja with 10 of my friends, I knew getting up to Lira on Sunday would be a logistical nightmare. It would require hours on a bus, but I wasn’t about to miss out on a good time. SO on Sunday morning I woke up at 6:30am to hop on a “matatu” headed for Kampala. In my sleepy state I made the very bad decision of sitting in the first row. Even though there were about 8 open seats in the back of the van, I was joined by 5 fellow travelers on a seat made for 3. In addition, the woman sitting next to me was bringing a bag full of fresh fish to family members…As Nemo, Dory and I headed for Kampala, the baby that was sitting on the lap of the mother behind me decided to vomit. Fast forward 1 minute and I had a baby in my lap, clothes that smelled like I had just gone deep-sea fishing and I driver that was honking his horn every 30 seconds looking for additional passengers.
After 2.5 hours we arrived in Kampala where I met Twalib at the UHI. To my dismay we hopped back on to a Matatu and headed for the bus park. When we arrived we asked around for buses leaving for Lira and were informed of one leaving at 2pm. It was 10:45am at the time. There is not much to do around the bus park and not exactly where a foreigner wants to be hanging out so Twalib and I bought our tickets and hopped on the bus. I proceeded to sweat out the adult beverages that I had enjoyed the night before while Twalib read me excerpts from his book about Donald Trump. I cannot tell you why but Twalib is simply fascinated by Trump and continues to ask me if the American people are dumb enough to vote for him. I think I’m scared to honestly answer that question. As time went on vendors came onto the bus selling everything from purses and phone chargers to pots and pans. I happened to be the only non-Ugandan on this bus so every time they passed me they first stared and then said “C’mon Mzungu you buy my things.” For those of you into one stop Christmas shopping, the Ugandan bus system definitely has it all.
Finally 2pm arrived and we were on our way. About an hour into the trip, the sky turned black and shortly after started to downpour. SURPRISE! My window was jammed. I never thought I would need a rain jacket in a vehicle before but somehow things are starting to surprise me less and less. An hour after this unfortunate occurrence we stopped at a local gas station. At these stops people usually hop off to use the restroom and buy refreshments. Since Twalib and I both had bags we took turns getting off the bus-I went first. When I returned Twalib hopped off and I soon realized the bus was leaving….and he wasn’t on it. I stood up yelling that we forgot someone yet all I received in return were a few stares. I continued yelling until finally about 2 minutes down the road we pulled over to the shoulder. I looked out the window to see Twalib running full speed after the bus in the pouring rain waving his arms. I honestly can’t stop laughing just thinking about it . The rest of the trip was long but compared to the beginning of the trip, thankfully uneventful.
We arrived in Lira around 8pm and met up with Steve, a resident from Case Western who came over to help us launch phase 1 of our project. This week has gone very smooth and I think we are both happy with how everything has turned out. In short, this project entails us first mapping the current flow of patients with suspected cardiac disease at Lira Regional Referral Hospital. We then plan to train medical personnel in echocardiography to bring cardiac diagnoses and appropriate treatment to the people of Lira, instead of them being referred to other parts of the country, which is the current protocol. This week has been full of meetings, important discussions and relationship building with the local staff. I am extremely happy with the positive response our presence and this project has received and I am super excited to watch it grow over the next few months. Ready to wrap things up and head back to Gulu tomorrow evening!