As part of my trip to Uganda I applied for extra funding to be a Global Health Ambassador. After pitching some ways I would support exchange students they accepted my application. I eventually had the pleasure of providing logistical support for four visiting Ugandan students. Most recently I helped orient Rodgers and Josh who came to Seattle from Uganda for 4-week medical rotations. They were placed with a host family who provided lodging and occasional meals, while I was tasked with helping them learn to use the public transportation, helping them acquire cell phones, and providing general support. Technically I had fulfilled my obligation by orienting two previous students (Dickson and Lawrence) but I live for this kinda shit so I thought “F it”, I’ll show these guys around. Also, I had just returned from Uganda and had a whole month before my next clinical rotation, so I was uniquely positioned to orient them as well. It is truly hard to know whether the Seattle to Kampala or Kampala to Seattle transition is more stark, but considering neither of these guys had ever left their home region or ever been in an airplane, it’s safe to assume that their shit was about to be rocked. Knowing where they were coming from and having oriented a couple of their compatriots in the past really did change how I approached providing support. In this regard the student exchange system provided to be rather elegant. (Cheers to the program director Scott McClelland…)
Let’s start by introducing Rodgers Atuhaire, ’cause dude is larger than life. I actually met Rodgers early-on during my 6 weeks in Uganda. You see everybody meets Rodgers. He’s easily the coolest cat on campus, dressed to a T, and as personable as they come. I can understand the choice to send him as a representative of the medical school as he oozes charisma. He would eventually explain to me that he descended from a warrior clan and that his characteristics were consistent with those of his ancestors. Further evidence that #swag is genetic. Rodgers has an indefatigable charm and a deft personal touch. Also, he likes to partayy. This is a Uganda thing if I haven’t gotten that across in previous posts. Beer drinking, dancing, and general fun are as central to the Ugandan culture as infidelity (what?? Google it…)
Josh on the other hand provided a quieter contrast to the vibrancy of Rodgers. He is first and foremost a dedicated Christian. His first task upon arrival was to find a suitable church that he could attend during his stay. In true African fashion Josh tried to walk to a church he found online which was a good 5 miles away. He had tried calling me for a ride at 5 am which was never gonna work : ) Eventually I woke up, tracked him down, and gave him a ride to the church. This predominantly Vietnamese congregation (hilarious right?) provided a ton of support for him throughout his stay. They provided regular rides, meals, and entertainment activities. In general Josh was much more reserved than Rodgers, but also very personable. In many ways these two embodied some of the contradiction found in Uganda, equal parts party and Jesus.
This photo is one of my favorites of these two as it really captures their shared brotherhood. They also realllly loved taking selfies and playing with their phones. As I’ve mentioned previously Ugandans often have 2 or 3 phones and they are a central part of their life. While I find myself slowly unplugging and learning to de-emphasize the role of my phone in my daily life, I often found most of Uganda (and the USA for that matter) doing the opposite.
I cherish experiences to share culture such as these. One of my life goals is to continue to cultivate more global contacts. I hope to leave a network for my younger siblings, children, and grand-children to be able to trot the globe with friendly fixers abound. After all you can only truly learn about a place through the eyes of a local inhabitant. I could not have enjoyed my time with these two any more. We nearly checked off every one of the proposed activities on my ambassador application. We rode bikes on the Burke, hit Pike Place and the space needle, ate Paseo sandwiches, had a roof-top barbecue, went to breweries, and played soccer. Months after returning home Joshua still messages me regularly just to keep in touch, in fact so do Dickson and Lawrence…probably more than my friends here do : )
“I like to kick it… I’m a karate guy