Tuesday, April 16, 2013

“30 Sites and 30 Nights”—April 16, 2013 (Day 28)



Name: Alia Fry

Age: 27

Home Town: Jefferson City, Missouri

What she did before Peace Corps: Worked for Missouri Dept of Health, and went to get her MPH from University of Washington

Program Sector: Community Health

Number of months spent in Uganda: 19

Host Organization: Kisiizi Hospital

Site location: Southwestern region, Rukungiri District, Kisiizi

Language spoken at your site: Rukiga

Alia is working with Kisiizi Hospital. She is working in three different areas of the hospital: the health society (the hospital's insurance scheme), the data system, and the infection control program. With the health society she is working to streamline the organization processes. With the data system she has essentially done assessments of the system to determine where modifications can be made. For example, she developed an electronic reporting system for all in-patient records. And with the infection control program she assists with promotion of the program, for example she works on trainings and media development.

Alia's favorite thing about her site is the location of her site. “I live in a really naturally beautiful place. I love the rolling hills and even the rain. There is also the waterfall.” Her favorite times at her site are when she can get in really deep conversations with co-workers about Uganda, health issues, etc. “I feel like we are really sharing. You forget that you are two people from two different places. All the other things fall to the side and you can just have a really good conversation.”

Alia's biggest challenge at site is that there are a large number of projects that require her attention, sometimes she feels she is being pulled in many different directions. She loves the fact that the people here have so much energy and really want her help on different projects, but sometimes she struggles with focusing on only a few projects at once and doing those projects really well as opposed to working on every project but not being able to give them the needed attention. She also struggles with the fact that there are so many other foreigners volunteers in her community. “It keeps you from integrating the way you could if you were the only foreigner in your community. You are in this constant state of meeting new people, getting to know them and having them leave.”

Alia does most of her food shopping at the market in Kisiizi. For what she can't get here or things that are more expensive she travels to Mbarara or Kabale, but this is usually just specialty items.

Alia lives in a very nice house. It isn't really big, but it is plenty big enough. She has a sitting room, a bedroom, a bathroom and a kitchen. Her house has running water and even a hot shower as well as electricity. Her house is one that the hospital always uses for volunteers, so she has many amenities that other volunteers are not given when they first move to site, such as a refrigerator.

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Today was another rough transport day. I traveled from Rukungiri to Kisiizi and it involved a lot of waiting and bumpy roads. So to get to Alia's site I had the option of taking either a car taxi or a truck. I got to the taxi park at around 7AM and at that time there were no vehicles there that were going to Kisiizi, but I was told that one would be coming shortly. So after about 20 minutes of waiting, a truck showed up and I got a seat in the cab of this pickup truck. After waiting in the vehicle for another 20 minutes we left the taxi park. To me this was deceiving, because I'm used to vehicles leaving the taxi park when they are ready to go. This one was not. We drove just outside the taxi park and stopped at a small shop to pick up some things. I'm not sure what it was but it was sacks of something, probably grain or sugar or something along those lines. After we picked this stuff, we drove across town to pick some metal rods. Then we drove back towards the taxi park to pick some more things. So we kept crossing town like this and also wasting time at every stop for about an hour in total. Finally we filled the vehicle with people and merchandise and we left town.

We drove some ways and we stopped at a trading center where we were about to turn off the main road onto a dirt road. As soon as we turned off the main road we pulled over and most of the people got out of the truck. After a few minutes I was told by the guy sitting next to me that we were probably going to sit there for at least an hour in order to pick up passengers. Luckily we only waited about 45 minutes before we left. So we started driving down this dirt road packed in 4 deep in the cab of this truck. I'm pretty sure the driver of this truck must have known everyone along this road, because we were constantly stopping for him to greet people. Finally at about 11:30 I arrived in Kisiizi.

When I first arrived here, I went back to Alia's house with her and she made me some food, because I hadn't really eaten all day. So we sat and chatted for a while, then we decided to venture out and tour around. Alia first took me to see the waterfall. Kisiizi has a really nice waterfall with a bit of a tragic story behind it. Apparently back in the day, when a young girl got pregnant out of wedlock, the men in her family would take her to the top of the waterfall and push her over. Obviously this doesn't happen anymore, so the waterfall is just a nice scenic natural beauty to go and look at. There used to be a zip line across the falls, which I thought would have been really awesome, but it was shut down some time back. The waterfall is actually set up with a turbine to produce electricity for all of Kisiizi as well.

Then we went to the market and got some produce to cook for dinner. We also went to tour the hospital. Alia showed me many of the different offices and introduced me to the people she works with. She doesn't directly work with the patients so we didn't really go in any of the wards where the patients are. However, I got to see a little bit of the different projects she works on here and meet many of her colleagues.

We finally made our way back to Alia's house where we were soon joined by the hospital's mason, John. When he stopped by Alia made us some tea and we sat and chatted with him for a while. After he left, Alia and I continued to just hang out. Now Alia is making us an amazing dinner and I will soon take a HOT shower tonight.

I really like Kisiizi. I feel like it is deep in the village, but it doesn't have a truly “village” feel to it. It seems like you can actually get a lot of food out here and the people are really have themselves together, especially at the hospital. It is also unusual because there are so many foreigners here. We are far away from any large towns, but there are a lot of ex-pats living here. It was also interesting to me because some of the hospital staff actually knew my school when Alia mentioned where I was working. It's funny being back in the southwest. I often forget how close I am to my site, especially because I have never been to Kisiizi before.

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