Dufflebag Diaries

It wasn’t until just a few days ago that I realized I had been living out of suitcases for nearly a month. Now that I am settled in Kasese, Western Uganda, I wanted to chronicle the past few weeks before posting about my new home, job, and adventures… 

July 2 to 7 – Vermont: My Sister’s Wedding
After about a week of farewells and late-night packing in Washington, DC, Nick and I flew up to Vermont for my baby sister’s wedding. This was also my chance to prove the West coast isn’t the best coast! Below are some highlights from the trip:

  • A tour of my hometown, Essex Junction, including a stop at Martone’s Sandwich Shop and the Bagel Market
  • The Ben & Jerry’s Factory in Waterbury to sample the world’s finest ice cream (and swerve through masses of children on summer break)
  • A tasting tour of Stowe including the Alchemist Brewery, Cabot Cheese, Snowflake Chocolates, Cold Hollow Cider Mill, a maple syrup shack, and Pie in the Sky pizza (my favorite!)
  • Scenic drive to the Lake Champlain Islands and my former home on North Hero Island
  • A stop at the von Trapp Family Lodge for a picturesque view of the green mountains
  • Strolling around Burlington including the waterfront, Church Street, the Skinny Pancake, and Vermont Pub & Brewery.

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After we played tourist for a few days, our attention was turned to wedding festivities. After errands and arts & crafts, we all had a lovely evening at my now brother-in-law’s mother’s house feasting on Bove’s Italian food (a VT favorite) on the eve of their wedding. Also happening to be July 5th, it was wonderful to spend my birthday with my family, both new and old.

On Saturday, Liz said “I do!” It was a beautiful, small wedding on the top of Mt. Philo in Charlotte that consisted of saying their vows against the green mountains, dancing in the grass, cooking s’mores in a pit, and some seriously-aged and smuggled in red wine to toast to the occasion! It was truly a Vermont-style wedding. Here are a sampling of photos snapped throughout the day…

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July 7 to 20 – Yale University (New Haven, CT): Global Health Corps Training
My flight to JFK was 6am the morning after the wedding – perhaps a blessing and a curse? After some late night and early morning goodbyes, I finally departed for the long-awaited 2 week long training that GHC hosts each year for its fellows. After meeting my first GHC friend/vermonster on the flight, we bused to Yale with many of the international fellows who had just arrived from Burundi and Rwanda and were experiencing the US for the first time on a less-than-scenic drive to New Haven.

These two weeks were filled with so many new faces, interesting speakers, and fun events. A few of my favorites were:

  • Some of the inspiring speakers: Noerine Kaleeba (founder of The AIDS Support Institute, Uganda); Phill Wilson (Founder of the Black AIDS Institute); Jean Bosco Niyonzima (Medical Director, Last Mile Health); Cheryl Dorsey (President, Echoing Green); Eric Bing (Director of Global Health, Bush Institute)
  • Helping the New Haven Land Trust clean up a space for an urban garden near a senior center
  • Still Harbor, a tight GHC partner, challenging the fellows in daily sessions to reflect on our personal vision and missions
  • An evening reception at Chelsea Piers in NYC with GHC fellows, alumni, staff, and supporters
  • 6 mile hike to East Rock Park in New Haven
  • Strolling along The Highline in Chelsea, an architecturally intriguing renovated train track made into a walkway

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At Yale, I was also able to meet my wonderful co-fellows for the next year. Part of GHC’s model is that they pair you with a national citizen in the country you’re working in. Since there are two Americans at my placement organization for the year, there are also two Ugandans. As a quartet of co-fellows heading to Western Uganda, we were to be housemates, coworkers, and friends. Anticipating all of this time to be spent together, you can imagine that I was excited to meet them!

Enter my three lovely co-fellows, all coming from diverse backgrounds and experiences:

  • Amber – a nurse/journalist from LA
  • Benon – originally from near Jinja and coming from the private sector
  • Peter – a nurse/teaching instructor from the Eastern region
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Peter, me, Amber, Benon

The orientation closed out with some final words of wisdom from Still Harbor, and a closing dinner and ceremony. In the morning, all 105 of this year’s GHC fellows departed for their respective placement countries.

July 21 to 24 – Kampala, Uganda: ACODEV Orientation
The trip to Uganda consisted of a 2 hour drive to NYC from Yale, 3 hours waiting at JFK, a 7 hour flight to Amsterdam, a 3 hour layover, 9 hours to Kigali, Rwanda, 1 hour sitting on the plane, 2 hours flying to Entebbe Airport, and an hour drive to our hotel in Kampala. At about 28 hours travel time, it was lovely to arrive at Eureka Place Hotel, our home for the next 3 nights (with all of our bags, no less). It was my first time stepping on African soil!

Amber and I at JFK

Amber and I at JFK

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Erin and I waiting in Kigali

Despite the jet lag, we had a packed agenda for the following 2 days in Kampala before departing for Kasese. We were up bright and early to exchange money, buy cell phones/internet modems, and to have our first Ugandan meal!

In the afternoon, we were fortunate enough to catch the launch of a Strategic Plan for one of ACODEV’s partners, Set Her Free, that empowers young women of Uganda who had been imprisoned by or at risk of sexual exploitation/child labor. As a way to raise unrestricted funds for the organization, ACODEV uses a consulting arm to leverage their expertise and provide services to partners such as this one.

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On Day 2, we all spent the day at ACODEV’s national offices for a day of orientation and to meet the staff. It was so exciting to dig deeper in learning about our programs after spending so much time on ACODEV’s website before arriving. To learn more about ACODEV, please check our their website! And, as a shameless plug, please follow us online:
Website – http://www.acodevuganda.org/ (sign up for our newsletter)
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/AcodevUganda
Twitter Handle – @ACODEVUganda

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