Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Going Bananas

So tomorrow is my last full day on the road. After almost two months and 28000+ frequently flyer miles, I am headed home - provided that I make the three connections between Uganda and Washington and manage not to get quarantined in Europe. I have to say, it’s about time.

I don’t have much to report, but I wanted to post a couple of photos from the field work I did this week, so I am going to ramble on for a few paragraphs anyway. I went with the teams out to Bushenyi in western Uganda, near the Rwandan and Congolese borders. It is a beautiful part of both Uganda (and Africa in general), where dawn breaks over mist shrouded banana plantations stretching across the hills. That’s right – miles and miles of banana plantations. They sure do like bananas out in Bushenyi. For example, a typical culinary day in the life of my field work goes something like this:

Breakfast – eggs, toast and bananas
Mid morning snack – banana
Lunch – two bananas
Dinner – Steamed mashed bananas with beans and peanut sauce

That last one is not anywhere near as gross as it sounds, but after a few days, you really don’t look forward to meal times much anymore.

The other remarkable thing about this area is how unbelievably poor parts of it are. Not in the sense of the West African nothing-grows-and-then-we-starve model, but government service delivery is horrific. Because of the rain and the hills, the roads are total crap, and nothing and no one gets to these areas. The primary school was mostly thatch (swarmed over by hundreds of children in truly tragic hot pink uniforms) and the health clinic was the most depressing I have ever seen. It was a two room cement box, staffed by one (a nurse’s assistant that didn’t look old enough to shave), no electricity, no water (it was hauled up from a stream 3 miles downhill), no beds, almost no drugs, just nothing. There are so few supplies, women who give birth are required to bring their own cotton gauze and razor blades. And in a country where more than 5 percent of the adult population is HIV+ (as opposed to 0.006 percent in the US), the clinic has been out of gloves for over six months.


Daniel J. said...

I like to see my name in print.

Anonymous said...

Your blog was a little short this time but nonetheless interesting. You are letting all of us (who read your wonderful comments on the places you have visited) know where to travel to when we get some time. I treasure your stories and really, really look forward to every one that you write. Thank you
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