Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Journey to Kampala

The weeks leading up to my departure wavered between utter excitement and sheer terror. I obsessively went over my checklist: bug spray, sunscreen, clothes, money, passport, first aid kit, emergency numbers, medication, shoes—check, check, and check. I researched everything I could find about Uganda, and went through every scenario I could think of. Still, I felt wholly unprepared.  But before I knew it, I was boarding a plane at Logan airport, as ready as I would ever be.  My first journey abroad had begun, first stop, Canada. And the first thing I do? Go through a do not enter door because I can’t read French, and get screamed at by security. I totally got this.

Air Canada international flights are a whole different breed than their domestic flights: colorful ambiance lighting, comfy seats, pillows and blankets. I usually do not fly well, to say the least. But this was an entirely different experience. Eighteen hours of travel time in, I had my face pressed against the plane window, and could not stop smiling. I was taking everything in—the full moon, the clouds, any glimpse of the continent I could see. It was then it finally sunk in: I am going to Uganda, my home for the next three months. My dream is finally coming true. Sleep deprived and full of gratitude, I felt ready.

My good friend and fellow classmate, Alex, accompanied me on the last leg of the journey, and we made our way to a guesthouse in Entebbe for the night. I slept beneath the mosquito netting with life chirping all around me in one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Like the wonderful friend that he is, Alex had planned the first night as a way to ease me into the Ugandan experience. This became abundantly clear as we made our way to Kampala the next morning: the scenery gradually transformed from peaceful paradise to utter chaos. Cars, boda boda’s (motorcycle taxis), people, and animals everywhere. I loved every second of it. At first the city appeared to have no rhyme or reason, but there is a rhythm to it, and everyone is in tune. Two days in the city and I am already madly in love. 

I spent today at Owino market, a giant crowded space with everything you could imagine—clothes, food, bikes, herbs, drums, unidentified objects. Then we were off to Gaddafi Mosque (the second largest mosque in Africa), which offered the most incredible 360 view of the city. By the end of the day I found myself comfortable on the back of a boda boda, and gradually loosened my white-knuckle death grip on the bar behind my seat. I was even able to navigate my way around the city. I began to feel like I do, in fact, totally got this. 

The view from Gaddafi Mosque (Owina Market is to the left)

Now I sit on the porch of my guesthouse, the night creeping into the corners of the sky, contemplating what Gulu will bring. I leave on Monday morning to officially start my internship, and I no longer feel that sheer terror. I am ready for my Gulu adventure. While I will miss this city, I simply cannot wait to see what happens next. 


  1. How awesome Jess!!! I knew you would love it! Keep us posted. Laurie

  2. very exciting - beautifully written mom