Another year, another new place

Another year, another new home. This time, Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. My first time in Africa, but clearly I’m no stranger to living abroad (for those keeping track at home—USA, Spain, Israel, Nepal and now Uganda).

Ever since choosing my graduate program, I have been looking forward to heading back out to the world for the mandatory 12-week summer field project. However, when the time came to buy a plane ticket to Uganda, I was overcome with dread and resentment. I left New York quite literally kicking and screaming, and cried more in a one-week period than I did in the entire year prior. This was pretty surprising to me, because I don’t even really like New York, and I thought I was so excited to live somewhere new again! Usually, within a few months in a place, I am itching to get somewhere new. I loved the thrill of figuring out a new language and a new culture and a new place and new friends, and found it very convenient to leave just as I needed to get serious about my life in that place. I was drawn to my academic program precisely because it offered me the chance to always be moving.

Turns out, burnout is real. So many years of moving every 4-12 months finally took their toll, and the prospect of one more move nearly broke me. After eight different cities in as many years and a passport that had literally no blank pages, I simply could not muster up the energy and excitement to do it all again. I like my life in New York, and I didn’t want to pack it back in the same two bags that have been following me around the world and take them somewhere new again. For the first time in memory, I felt comfortable where I was. I didn’t want new friends or new adventures or new stories to tell at the dinner table. I just wanted to enjoy what I had. And yet, heading abroad for the summer was not optional, so I finally bit the bullet and headed off.

If I left the US kicking and screaming, I arrived at the Entebbe airport after more than 65 hours of travel hell so happy to be done moving, I nearly cried tears of joy. Just like when I arrived in Nepal, I had almost no idea what to expect from Kampala. And now, here I am.

Where am I exactly, and why?

Map of Africa with UgandaSome basics on Uganda: Located in East Africa, Uganda is bordered by on the east by Kenya, in the north by South Sudan, and to the west and south by the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Lake Victoria. It is home to countless species of animal, including many of the popular safari animals (so maybe I can go on safari!) and is well known for significant populations of mountain gorillas and chimpanzees. The equator runs through the northern part of the country, so the temperature is relatively stable and wet—currently the average daily temperatures are in the mid to upper 70s. Uganda made the news decades ago because of dictator Idi Amin and the brutal years following his exile. International news coverage of Uganda was again focused on violence in the 2000’s because of the presence of the Lord’s Resistance Army, but currently the LRA is not present in the country and Uganda enjoys stability and peace. However, poverty is still endemic, and “development” is a long ways away for most of the country.

Not, however, in my neck of the woods in Kampala. I live in an apartment with my own giant bedroom and bathroom (quite a change from my New York digs), and I have access to all of Kampala’s expat delights within a few minutes drive. Unlike Nepal, where I was living like a local among the locals, here I am living a life of relative luxury—supermarkets full of imported foreign goods (we have truffle salt in the apartment!), a housekeeper every day to wash our dishes and do our laundry, access to malls and fitness centers that put US facilities to shame, and so much more. I already feel pretty weird about the way we (the other white expats) live here, so expect more posts on that as the summer progresses. For now, however, it has made my transition so much easier, and filled me with optimism that this will actually be a fun and enriching summer.

About the work: I’m interning at an organization that focuses on agriculture and nutrition, and I will be working on a data collection survey to assess farmer satisfaction with a crop diversity program that has been in place for a few years. I will be designing a survey, implementing it in different villages and evaluating the results. Totally up my alley- I get to use my anthropology background, do some fieldwork, practice my data analysis and dip my toe in the nutrition field. I can’t wait to really dive in (today was my first day of work) and start learning. Stay posted for updates and the inevitable stories and musings that come with being in an unfamiliar place!

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