After traveling for 25 hours, I finally landed in Entebbe Airport at 7:30 pm local time. I managed to make it through customs and find all my bags while I was on the lookout for the US Embassy driver that was supposed to pick me up. When I finally spotted him, I was so relieved! He introduced himself as Andrew, we hopped in the van, and off we went on the 2 hour ride into Kampala. Almost bordering Lake Victoria, Kampala is Uganda’s large, growing capital infamous for its traffic jams.
At Makerere, I met Mark, a Fulbrighter who’s teaching at the university. While I only knew him from 2 days of orientation in DC, it was comforting to see a familiar face. He showed me around campus, introduced me to his favorite taxi driver and fruit seller, and told me about living in Uganda (he’s already been here a month). Makerere is quite large with many different colleges, and the students and professors always dress up—many of them look like they’re going for an interview! I only saw a few pairs of jeans. There are also giant, blue storks flying from tree to tree all around Makerere. In the afternoon, I met a Ugandan professor and chatted with her while sipping banana juice.
Later that night, Andrew came back and picked me up to bring both me and Eden, the Fulbright girl who had just arrived, to GLA. This time we found it! We had to drive up a steep hill filled with ditches and deep holes. I wasn’t sure we would make it. At the top, we fell backwards three times before finally making the turn. Andrew pulled into the gate and the GLA staff met us very warmly with tea, bananas, and other snacks. When Andrew left, the van struggled to make it over the hill and turn just outside the gate. He kept accelerating but the tires just spun until the air reeked of burned rubber. He left some impressive skid marks and finally made it.
My first 24 hours in Uganda were a rollercoaster of emotions. There are so many new sights, sounds, tastes, and ways of doing things—the culture shock hit me pretty hard. While I have been here before, it was only for two weeks in rural, northern Uganda, which is very different from bustling Kampala. Being on my own is also much more daunting than being part of a team. Just from walking around and observing, my senses are oversaturated, and I learn new things constantly from talking to Ugandans. It’s difficult to process everything I’m taking in, but I’m so thankful for this opportunity and love getting to know the Ugandan people.