Organization: Pilgrim Africa
Dates: 9-Sep-13 - 9-Dec-13
In Brendan's own words
How I contributed: As a part of a project to start an agricultural research university, I taught a pilot course on aquaculture business to A level secondary school students at a school run by the organization that employed me. Aside from the educational value for the students, the primary purpose of implementing the course, which was prepared by a research fellow at UMass Amherst, was to better understand the obstacles associated with distance learning course implementation given limited resources including limited data transfer. The experience will allow for this model to be refined such that top quality instruction will be available to a relatively remote area despite limited economic resources. In addition to implementing the course, I installed and managed an aquaculture system to accompany the course, helped fix machinery on campus, helped with computer skills, was the first adviser/coach to a fledgling debate team, and prepared course material on the topic of agroforestry for future semesters.
What I felt most challenged by: The most challenging thing about my time in Uganda was remaining a socially functional person during long rides on public transport. Seats made out of reabar, arguments over ticket price after I'd already been in the vehicle for several hours, remaining continent, and trying to keep fish that I was transporting cool enough during a 14 hour journey that I had done in 5 was trying. I felt challenged by the isolation that I felt on Sundays as a non-religious person in a staunch Christian community. My patience was also challenged but I got used to the pace within a couple weeks. I was also asked for money by close friends all the time, even while paying for booze daily. Friendships don't feel good after being asked for money even when the situation would be reasonable for me normally.
What I enjoyed most: I enjoyed the fruit that I got to indulge in on a daily basis. I had never had a truly good mango or avocado in my life and had never tasted a fresh guava, a fruit that I now day dream about. Other new foods such as giant rat, all kinds of goat and pig parts, starches that surprisingly grew on me, different bugs, and an obscene number of chapatis were also a good time. I enjoyed learning to navigate a new social climate and slowly becoming more adept at getting what I needed and relating to and forming friendships with people. Receiving huge amounts of female attention as an exotic was also fun. Paddling the whitewater on the Nile for a few weeks was also fun, as was the cost of living. A life of kayaking and as much of the best food money can buy amounted to less than 5 USD per day.
Would I recommend this experience: Yes. Uganda is different. Different experiences open the mind to new forms of inspiration. Where I was in Uganda, there were few visiting people. As such, things are not set up to accommodate or take advantage of visitors. Of course heavy British influence has made English the Lingua Franca, so getting around is not so hard, but culturally, there are few amendments made and institutions in place to cater to those from outside the community. The fact that English is so widely spoken makes Uganda a great place to experience for the first time a culture quite different from what most Westerners are used to. People are also welcoming and helpful and I felt whether in Kampala or Soroti, perhaps naively, that I was in no more danger than I would have walking through NYC.