On Tuesday, my family settled me into my room at the Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute Kabanyolo (MUARIK) near Gayaza. Watching them drive away and head to the airport was incredibly hard. Even though I am so glad to be in Uganda, at that moment I wanted to run after the car, jump in, and fly back to America with my family. It is hard being in a foreign country all on your own!
My first night here was hard. Not only was I alone in Uganda without my family, but the power and water were out until late in the evening too, haha! Since that first night, everything has gone uphill. I absolutely love where I am staying and the people I am staying with! I truly feel at home here.
At MUARIK, I am staying in a dorm (or hostel as they call it) with around 20 graduate students. Most of the grad students in my hostel are doing a masters in plant breeding and seed systems. Two of the students are pursuing a Phd in rural development.
My summer home…the hostel!
Sign pointing to where the masters student’s research fields are
These students could not have been more welcoming to me! They have constantly been helping and checking up on me. The students are from all over Africa, including Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Sudan, Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia, etc. MUARIK is a really big institute with many classrooms, hostels, labs, greenhouses, and fields. It is a great place to go on walks and explore!
The beautiful view from a field at MUARIK!
I cook my own breakfast here, which always consists of oatmeal and either coffee or tea. For other meals, our hostel has a cook named Esther. I can get lunch and dinner from Esther for 5,000 Ugandan shillings, which equals about $1.50! Esther is an amazing cook and she makes all the Ugandan staples, including rice, beans, matoke (mashed up plantains), etc. I have gotten to eat and try so many new foods here in Uganda and I can say that I really do like Ugandan food!
My daily breakfast
One of the students here who has been particularly kind and gracious is Nada. Nada is from Sudan and is completing her Phd currently. Since Ramadan (the month of fasting for Muslims) is going on right now, Nada fasts during the day and breaks the fast each night at 7pm with fellow Sudanese students. I have accompanied her almost every night that I have been here! So not only have I gotten to eat Ugandan food, but I have also gotten to eat Sudanese food as well. The meal always starts out with eating dates, then moves on to Sudanese bread, lentils, beans, and meat, and then ends with tea.
Breaking the fast
Every night I sleep under a mosquito net. In the morning, I awake to the sounds of roosters crowing and turkeys gobbling.
Home sweet home!
Our water system in the hostel has not been working since last Thursday! That means no running water. So we have had to gather water from the tank outside our building and pour the water into the toilets to flush them. I’ve also learned how to take a very efficient bucket shower!
A bucket shower about to commence!
If you are living in Uganda, having a bucket is a requirement. Thankfully the water just started working again earlier this afternoon. Here in Uganda, you make do with what you have. Sometimes there is no power, internet, or water. But all of those things are not necessities for life! Life here is simple…that is one of the things I like most about Uganda and Africa. Things are very inexpensive and people are always willing to help out those around them. Yes, there is a lot of corruption here and things move at a very different pace. But if you come here I think you will fall in love with the people, the beauty, and the culture.
Most of my time at MUARIK so far has been spent hanging out and adjusting to life here. Tomorrow, I start my research! I am doing my research under Dr. Elly Sabiiti. Dr. Sabiiti was a previous dean of the agriculture college at Makerere University. For those of you who don’t know how I came to be in Uganda this summer, it is all thanks to Dr. Sabiiti and people at OSU including Dr. Barker, Dr. Peffer, Beau Ingle, etc. My professor, Dr. Barker, introduced me to Dr. Sabiiti when he was at OSU as a Fulbright visiting scholar in January 2016. Dr. Sabiiti invited me to come to Uganda and the rest is history 🙂 The focus of my research for this week is traveling to various smallholder dairy farmers and asking them if they would be willing to have me complete a survey about their farm/dairy cows. If they are willing, I will then schedule a second meeting with them to take place in the coming weeks where I will actually complete the survey. I will keep you updated on how that all goes!
Dr. Sabiiti and I
In the past week, I have had the opportunity to take part in several fun and new experiences! On Saturday, I went to the wedding reception of one of the grad students here. In some ways, it was similar to a American wedding reception. However, the music was very different (upbeat African music). I also couldn’t understand most of what the speakers were saying as they were speaking in Luganda instead of English! One of my favorite parts of the wedding was the gift reception line at the end. Everyone gathered in a big line and danced their way up to the front to congratulate the bride and groom and hand them their gift! I must say, the dancing here is amazing.
Getting food at the wedding with two of the Ethiopian grad students
I have gotten the chance to travel into Kampala several times with Nada via matatu (taxi) and boda-boda (motorbike). Riding on boda-bodas can be somewhat dangerous, but they are a ton of fun! And they get you where you want to go in a timely manner as they can easily weave through traffic.
On Sunday, I spent most of the day with the Gibsons. Dr. and Mrs. Gibson are the other Americans living in MUARIK. They have been here for 9 years so far! Dr. Gibson is the professor in charge of the graduate plant breeding and seed systems program here. The Gibsons took me to church with them and then we spent the afternoon chatting. It was amazing to hear their story about how the Lord has guided them in their international work for their whole lives. Mrs. Gibson leads a Bible study for a few of the senior girls who attend the nearby elite, all girls high school. I was able to attend the study and get to know the girls. When they grow up, the girls truly want to have an impact on their country from helping with orphans to assisting refugees. That is what Uganda and Africa need: educated young people rising up to tackle the challenges of their country.
On Sunday evening, the grad students in my hostel had a party to celebrate the end of their coursework (they are now moving onto research and internships). I only caught the end of the party, since I had been at the Gibsons. However, it was still extremely fun as we danced the night away…I even learned how to do some of the African dances! In just this first week that I have been on my own in Uganda, I have been so amazed at God’s faithfulness. I could not have asked for a better place to stay or better friends to live with!