Friday, June 22, 2012

(A)typical Day

Yoga (Hello) from Uganda! Here, in the small, rural town of Pallisa, a typical day is anything but typical. Therefore, I figured it would be amusing to try to describe a typical…well, more accurately, an atypical, day in the life for our research team. For example…
Today, following breakfast and our daily team meeting in which we outline our goals and objectives for the day, we set out for the Agule Community Health Clinic with which we partner for our community health research.  However, quickly after leaving the parking area of our hotel, a Ugandan friend phoned to inform us that one of our car tires was low. We then traveled to various fuel stations around town in search of an air pump. While the men worked on the car, the rest of us ladies walked to the nearby bank in order to exchange some of our US money for Ugandan shillings. We spent about an hour there due to some challenges with having crisp, properly dated money to exchange. This was actually a minor setback, as usually the bank’s system is down and/or the ATM does not have money to dispense. Afterwards, we walked to the local store to buy water and air time for our mobile phones.
Finally, about 2 hours after our intended departure, we were able to leave for the clinic. During our 45 minute drive we travel along a red clay road through various sub counties, while our driver and fearless leader, Dustin, usually successfully maneuvers around the numerous potholes, bicyclists, boda bodas (motorcycle taxis), pedestrians, and animals (mostly cattle, goats, and chickens) with which we share the roads daily. Today was an exciting day at the clinic for us students as it was our first opportunity to formally interview patients. With the help of 2 members of our team, Madeline, another student, and Michael, our translator, I had the pleasure of interviewing a woman waiting to be seen who had traveled 2 hours by bicycle for treatment.  During an hour long interview we conducted a patient intake survey in which we collected information regarding her demographics, reasons for clinic use, and perceptions with respect to her specific illness, its symptoms, causes, and the various ways that it can effectively be treated.  This was truly a fascinating experience and undoubtedly among my favorite thus far.  After completing our interviews for the day, we planned to return home for a late lunch in order to eat the delicious spaghetti that we made ourselves the night before in the hotel’s outdoor kitchen and then return to Agule to observe a community outreach session being conducted by clinic staff and volunteers at a local primary school. However, little did we know that we were in for yet another daily surprise in addition to our morning delays…
About 15 to 20 minutes into our drive we had the perceived misfortune of getting a flat tire. Luckily we had a spare in the trunk of the car that we rent from a local Ugandan family. Not so luckily, we soon realized that we did not have the tools necessary to remove and change the tire. We then attempted to call for help, but our mobile phones did not have reception in the area. We were fortunate enough to have Michael, our translator, who had nearby family. While he went for help, the rest of our team found creative ways to pass the time. We have a portable speaker that we use to play music while we do informal work, which we pulled out to entertain ourselves. We very quickly became a spectacle and attracted a crowd of school aged children who looked on with a mixture of expressions ranging from amusement to bewilderment to fright as we sang and danced on the side of the road to distract ourselves from our predicament, as well as, the uncomfortable sting of the intense afternoon heat. I am quite certain that many children made fun of our impromptu karaoke session, but some sang and danced along with us to the songs that they knew. We communicated with the gathering children using a mixture of what we know so far of the local language, Ateso, and the English that they have learned in school. We successfully exchanged greetings and pleasantries and, probably not so successfully, attempted to explain our portable speaker and ipod gadget. Below you will find a video of our roadside exchange/performance. Trust me, you will not want to miss this. :-)

In closing, one of the first quotes that we learned upon our arrival states, “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not break.” This is more than a catchy or arbitrary saying; it reminds us to approach each day not only with an open schedule, but also with an open heart and mind. Although we sometimes do not meet our daily goals and objectives, we gain just as much from the surprises and setbacks that we face each day.  Often we view a flat tire as an obstacle, but as you can now see, here in Pallisa it is an opportunity for a cultural exchange on the side of the road. Over the next few weeks, I look forward to many more typically atypical days, the varied possibilities and experiences that they bring, and the chance to share them with you all back home. Asodober (good bye) for now!


  1. Love it!! You did a GREAT job describing the (a)typical day-in-the-life of a Uganda MHIRT researcher!

  2. haha this is great! Looks like you had fun :)