It’s been just over a week since Andrea and I landed in Uganda. My mind is still processing the innumerable observations I’ve made and thoughts I’ve had since arriving in our new temporary home. At this rate, I expect it will take a lifetime to fully comprehend everything I’ve witnessed just one week in.
During an unexpected layover in Brussels, Belgium, we visited Grand Place and enjoyed some fine Belgian chocolate (sadly, no waffles). The next day, we finally found ourselves flying over the Mediterranean Sea and the Northern countries of Africa. Upon landing, a sea of signs—set in Arial—directed us to the customs counters. A few minutes later, we were officially on Ugandan soil.
Standing amongst a throng of other drivers was Tonny, holding a sign with “Pat” scrawled in blue pen over his head. Tonny drove us from the airport in Entebbe to our apartment in the Kololo district of Kampala, stopping at the local KFC for our first meal in Uganda. Not exactly authentic African cuisine, but it was just what our hungry bellies needed.
The next day, Tonny brought me and Andrea to a public market lined with small shops offering local produce and groceries like matooke, posho, beans, and more. We passed on the meat this time around (though the men manning the meat shops did trick me into giving them an inappropriate hand signal), but explore behind the main row of shops where, under dim lights and sketchy scaffolding, we purchased some of the best produce I’ve ever eaten.
We brought the food home and cooked our first somewhat-authentic meal: posho and beans. Posho is a porridge-like substance that becomes somewhat firm and is eaten by hand along with a “sauce” made up of either beans or meat and veggies. It was absolutely delicious.
On Sunday, Tonny brought his girlfriend to our place to show Andrea how to cook matooke. The four of us shared dinner and stories. Later, Tonny’s girlfriend offered us a tray of eggs. They were also very delicious.
Monday was my first day at the Ensibuuko office. Before heading in to meet the team, Corey and Jamal—two Canadian developers who arrived a couple of months before me—took me out for breakfast to update me on the status of the project and to give me a lay of the land. The team, though junior in experience, are full of vigour and drive and are starting to gain some momentum on the rewrite of the product.
On Wednesday, I joined several members of the team to celebrate the birthday of one of our developers, Fredrick. We had a great time sharing drinks and laughs as Fredrick wore the ceremonial sombrero (yes, it was a Mexican restaurant).
The rest of the week was spent familiarizing myself with the product, getting the dev environment set up on my computer, and introducing the team to product briefs. Harriet, a computer science grad hired as a documenter prior to my arrival, has been unofficially promoted to Product Manager in Training and has been doing a fantastic job.
On Saturday, Tonny took me and Andrea to Kabaka’s Lake. We walked around the lake and found ourselves in an area far more poverty stricken than the district of Kololo. The lake itself seemed to divide two completely different worlds; fancy apartment buildings and hotels on one side and tiny shacks and free-roaming livestock on the other.
We walked from the lake to Mengo Hospital where Andrea is now volunteering. The things we saw along the way had a tremendous impact on me. The level of poverty was unlike anything I’d ever seen before, yet perhaps even more striking was the fact that not a single person we interacted with that day asked for our help. Instead, we were met with friendly smiles and handshakes. And of course, several people commented on my beard.
At this point, I’m still processing the things we saw that day. To walk through an area like that is a privilege I don’t take lightly. At times, it was all I could do to hold back tears. My heart breaks for the people who live in that environment every day, from the toddler who grasped Andrea’s hand in wonder to the men and women who have lived this way their entire lives. I am so grateful that the work I am doing with Ensibuuko has the potential to at least begin the process of helping people living in poverty begin to find financial security.