Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Saying "Goodbye"

Justin and I have reached the end of our research project and spent a couple days purchasing final souvenirs and just being a tourist in Jinja, a city just southeast of Kampala, Uganda. We learned so much during the course of the project: from one another, our host the Centre for Reparations and Rehabilitation, and Ugandans. As we return home, I want to leave some few words of advice for those coming to Uganda after Justin and I.

1) The struggle is real!!! Every day is a struggle in one way or another. Maybe you will never have hot water while you're there, a boda almost runs over you, no one shows up for a focus group or interview, the translator doesn't show up, you get bitten by an unknown insect, there's no transport, or any other number of things can happen. Just remember the struggle is real and it is DAILY. This is completely normal and okay, just roll with it as best you can.

2) Patience is a virtue every MHIRT participant in Uganda needs. It takes a LONG time to get anything done. No, really. Research is a process with delayed gratification. Everything in Uganda takes a long time, so it's no surprise that research here works much the same way. Just be patient, trust in your supervisor and colleagues, and know that everything works out in the end.

3) Learn from locals. Locals have a lot to teach us about all kinds of things. Stop to listen, ask questions, and think critically about what you've been taught in the U.S. and what they are telling you. Some of the best information comes from casual conversations.

4) Love and trust in the other MHIRT participants! Justin and I didn't know each other before we started the project, but after all the struggles and the wonderful things we experienced together I think I can speak for both of us when I say we have developed what will be a long-term friendship. Other MHIRT participants can be a rock for you when the struggle gets real (see #1).

5) Enjoy the experience. Some folks get caught up in the struggles (see #1) or have difficulty being patient (see #2), never bother to learn from others (#3) or fail to trust and love their supervisor, colleagues, and other MHIRT folks (#4). Remember to take a step back, remember where you are, why you are there, and that there are times to be serious and focus on the work and there are times to have fun and enjoy the moment.

Our time in Gulu and our work over the northern districts was truly amazing. We are preparing our final reports for the organization as we also prepare to return home, see our families and friends, go back to school and work, and experience that reverse cultural shock of being home again. A huge thank you to MHIRT, NIH, the Centre for Reparations and Rehabilitation for hosting us, all our research participants, advisers, and colleagues!

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