Teaching into Practice: Working with Ugandan Pharmacy Students at Mulago Hospital

This in not an official U.S. Department of State (DOS) blog and the views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the DOS.

3rd Year Pharmacy Students Working with Patients At Mulago Hospital (pictured left to right: Nelson, Barbara, Babra, Geoffrey, Ronald)

3rd Year Pharmacy Students Working with Patients At Mulago Hospital (pictured left to right: Nelson, Barbara, Babra, Geoffrey, Ronald)

It was great to get back into clinical work in the hospital again, here in Kampala, Uganda at Mulago National Teaching and Referral Hospital. Yesterday I worked with both 3rd and 4th year pharmacy students, precepting them as they put their newly learned skills into practice taking care of patients on the Endocrinology Ward. I was so pleased to see great progress from when I was here just a month ago. Their confidence was improved as well as their pharmaceutical care skills and drug-disease knowledge. The course was able to continue, even in my absence due to the work of the Makerere Faculty and also the help of another 2 American volunteers, Susan and Joe, working with Healthcare Volunteers Overseas (HVO). They each came to Kampala for 3 weeks to work with the School of Pharmacy at Makerere University as well as help with the training of the Pharmacy Interns at Mulago Hospital. I was fortunate enough to find out about their plans ahead of time and with Richard Odoi’s approval, I started a conversation with Susan, even before her travels to Uganda, to let her know about the new PCSL curriculum for pharmacy students. I hoped she and Joe would be willing to help out teaching the new skills lab while I was away. Although this was Joe’s first trip to Uganda, Susan has actually been here and worked with Makerere University a number of times in the past but our paths hadn’t crossed until now.

Patrick and I had a delicious lunch of Beans and G-Nut Sauce over Rice (G-Nuts are small nuts like peanuts that are gound up and made into a smooth sauce.  It has a slight peanut butter taste and is really yummy!)

Patrick and I had a delicious lunch of Beans and G-Nut Sauce over Rice (G-Nuts are small nuts like peanuts that are gound up and made into a smooth sauce. It has a slight peanut butter taste and is really yummy!)

In addition to working with the students, I was able to meet up again with Patrick and Vicky, the Pharmacists who had come to the USA for Pharmaceutical Care training with me a year ago, as well as several of the Interns I knew from before. It is so nice that I am beginning to feel comfortable and at home at Mulago Hospital. Since this is my 5th time working at the hospital over the past 2 years, I have seen many positive changes. More often pharmacists are working with physicians and they, along with the nurses are definitely more accepting of us on the medical wards. I think they are realizing that our whole goal is to improve patient care and working, as a team, each healthcare provider using our own unique abilities, is better for patients. We have a long way to go, but I am still completely optimistic that with the right support such as onsite mentoring of pharmacists by people like Joe, Susan, and me, and of course patience and time, the healthcare for patients at Mulago Hospital and ultimately in all of Uganda will be improved.

 

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Glad to be Back in Uganda Again!

Greetings!  I have arrived back in Uganda safe and sound.  My flight began at 11am on Friday, October 24 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania (that was 6pm Kampala time) and I reached Entebbe Airport, Uganda at 10:30pm on Saturday October 25 (3:30pm Pennsylvania time).  It was a long journey but all went smoothly.  I had a nice surprise on my first long flight from Detroit to Amsterdam when I was upgraded to a Business Class seat because a family wanted to sit together in an area that included my original seat.  This was the first time I had ever been in a seat other than Economy or Coach and I have to say it was quite nice!  You get to order from a choice of 4 different meals on the menu and immediately upon being seated, before the flight takes off, you are offered champagne or orange juice.  The best part is that the seat lies all the way down and your feet can be put up so sleeping on the long 7.5 hour flight was easier.  I have to say it was all a bit surreal, though.  I kept thinking that this must be kind of what it was like to sail the Titanic- I was now on the upper decks being catered too while most of the people were crammed into the lower decks.

On Sunday I went to church with my housemate, Monty, and his wife who was visiting from North Carolina.  The wife, Lydia, of Monty’s boss, the Dean of the School of Biomedical Engineering, picked us up and we accompanied her to All Saints Cathedral, which was part of the Church of Uganda.  The service was great! Once again, the church was packed full and other members were seated in tents outside.  This is so different from most of the churches in American where many of the pews go empty on Sunday mornings.  The service was full of lively music, singing, and dancing.  The preacher was a guest- the retired Arch Bishop of the Church of Uganda.  He spoke English but felt more comfortable speaking through an interpreter in his native Luganda.  The two of them, the Arch Bishop, and his interpreter, were quite entertaining to watch, along with providing a good message- we are given new life in Christ so go out and live it!  The interpreter didn’t only translate the words into English but also mimicked the gestures and wild enthusiasm of the Arch Bishop as if he was giving the sermon himself.  I found out later that the interpreter, whom I think was a priest himself, was always with the Arch Bishop which explains why the two worked so well in tandem.  After the service we all went to a nice and relaxing lunch together at a local coffee restaurant called Javas.  The food and coffee was delicious.

Back at Edgehouse, the name of the visiting scholar house where I stay on campus, I greeted the staff and talked for awhile. It was so nice to be back among friends and receive such a warm welcome.  I basically took the day slowly and enjoyed time with Monty and his wife, Kate, then unpacked and then got a good night’s sleep on Sunday.  It seems that I have been able to pretty much avoid jet lag this time and on Monday morning I was ready to go to teach classes.  Could the seat in Business Class have made the difference???? :)

On Monday morning and throughout the day I was greeted with enthusiasm by the students and faculty as I taught 6 hours of class- the Pharmaceutical Care Skills Lab.  What a wonderful feeling to be among people who are so glad to see you!  As usual, though, I have jumped right back into my important work here and already have a to-do list a mile long.  I am really thankful, though, for this dedicated time I have in Uganda to completely focus on the work of helping to advance pharmacy practice here so that patient health outcomes can be improved.  When back in the States, this project is always on my mind, but I can accomplish so much more when I’m here because I can immediately bounce ideas off of the people I’m working with and try them out.

Today, Tuesday, I’m off to Mulago National Referral Hospital to work with the pharmacy students in the experiential setting as they practice their new skills while taking care of real patients.

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My Journey Continues: Returning to Uganda Amidst Worldwide Ebola Concerns

This in not an official U.S. Department of State (DOS) blog and the views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the DOS.

As I write I am embarking on my journey to Uganda to complete my Fulbright Specialist Program (FSP) project with visit 3 of this grant. This is definitely NOT my last trip to Uganda, but the nature of the FSP is to conduct and complete a short-term project with the host institution, Makerere University School of Pharmacy in my case. So this is my last official trip for the development of the Pharmaceutical Care curriculum with support from the U.S. Government. My goals for the next month are to teach some more classes and observe the teaching of the course by Makerere faculty, to assess student learning, and assess the curriculum and process of teaching and make any necessary changes to ensure continuity in the future by the University faculty. Wow, as I wrote that I realized I definitely have a challenge ahead but working together with the Pharmacy School faculty will make this doable.

Over the past few weeks as I’ve had interactions with family, friends, co-workers, and fellow church members and explained that I’m headed back to Uganda again, there has been one common question: “But aren’t you scared of getting Ebola?” I have decided to dedicated this post to my recurring answer and maybe it can help to calm not only those who care about me but people all over the world as this tragic epidemic continues and threatens to break loose and wreak worldwide havoc.

As I wrote out my usual answer, I realized it was quite long so I’m going to get to the bottom line right away. For those that want a more detailed explanation, continue reading on past the bullet points below.

Bottom Line:
• Uganda is in East Africa, 6900 miles away from the epicenter in the West African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. This is 2.5 times further apart than New York City and Los Angeles, California are.
• Ebola is contagious only by direct contact with the virus loaded bodily secretions of someone infected: blood, vomit, diarrhea, etc. – As a pharmacist, I do not usually directly care for patients in terms of physical examination or caring for these types of symptoms.
• The fever comes first, then as the patient gets sicker the other symptoms occur leading to release of secretions. You can’t get it by touching a person with only a fever and no secretion production.
• Ebola is not transmitted by the airborne route. You can’t get it by breathing the air around the infected person. We should all be worried more about catching Influenza is much more contagious and you can get it if you are not vaccinated and are standing within 3 feet of a coughing person with the flu.
• Uganda has not had a single case of Ebola from this current epidemic, although the healthcare system is quite familiar with caring for patients and containing this disease from outbreaks in the past. Currently they do health screening at the airports and all borders as well as have a system in place to isolate any patients that could possibly have Ebola, until it is ruled out.
• Ebola is certainly a scary disease and we should have a very healthy respect for it and know how to protect ourselves. Mass hysteria and propagation of falsehoods regarding risks, though, is not helpful, nor is ceasing work in countries and areas not affected by Ebola where people and systems rely on the help of others like me.
• I read an article today from a newspaper in Council Bluffs, Iowa about a high school girl who is going to Uganda on a mission trip (or already went) who has agreed to voluntarily quarantine herself for 21 days after arriving back in the USA due to concerns of the townspeople and parents of the other kids at her school. Unless this girl has directly cared for patients with Ebola, she is not at risk for getting the disease. And she can’t transmit the disease to anyone else unless she actually comes down with Ebola and is emitting bodily secretions, which she can’t get if she didn’t actually take care of Ebola patients. And there are no Ebola patients in Uganda at this time. This is just an example of how very poor decisions are made when people don’t take the time to learn the true risks. The article also stated that Uganda was in Central Africa, which is not true. There is no reason for this young woman to be kept away from her school friends and classes for 21 days just to quell the unfounded fears of the townspeople. I certainly understand the fear of getting Ebola and if it were transmitted by respiratory route this whole thing would be a different story. Before things get out of hand, proper education should done.

Now for my longer answer and commentary for those who are interested:

To be at risk for contracting Ebola several things need to happen. First of all, you need close proximity. You have to be near someone who has the disease. I am going to Uganda, which is in SubSaharan East Africa while the Ebola outbreaks are in West Africa. To give you an idea of how far I am away from anyone who has Ebola, consider the distance from Monrovia, Liberia where Ebola maintains a stronghold to Kampala, Uganda where I will be spending the next month, is 6900 miles apart. That is 2.5 times greater than the distance between New York City and Los Angeles, California. Of course, air travel condenses this space but there are many less people flying between West and East Africa than between NYC and LA daily and my flight to Uganda come from Detroit to Amsterdam to Entebbe, Uganda.

Next the disease in question needs to be contagious person to person. Ok, so Ebola is spread person to person. An example of a disease that is not contagious but is widespread in Africa is Malaria. A person who has Malaria can’t give it to someone else. [Bonus information: You can only get it from being bit by the female anopheles mosquito who harbors the parasite in her saliva. This is injected into the human when she takes a blood meal (bites you) for the sole purpose of feeding her embryos (baby mosquitoes in utero, in other words). Male anopheles don't bite humans- they don't need blood to survive. So the natural instinct of a mother to care for her unborn children is why humans get infected with Malaria. Interesting, huh?]

Then you need to consider how the disease is spread. We can all “thank our lucky stars”, as my mother used to say, that Ebola is not transmitted by the airborne route. You have to be in direct, unprotected contact with the bodily secretions (blood, vomit, diarrhea, urine, etc.) of a patient who has Ebola to get the disease and patients who are infected don’t start to develop these secretions and bleed until they have a fever. You can’t get Ebola from a patient who breathed on you or coughed in your presence. Influenza, on the other hand, is an example of a disease that is highly contagious by the airborne route. The possibility of contracting the flu should be of much greater concern to Americans and worldwide.. Although to most it means just a rough week at home in bed with a fever and feeling terrible, more than 58,000 people in the USA died in 2011 from influenza and pneumonia combined. (These are kept together because influenza often leads to pneumonia.) Maybe you are willing to risk getting the flu rather than getting the vaccine to prevent it, but you may not realize that before you even know you are really sick with the flu, you may already be spreading it by coughing and sneezing to anyone who comes within 3 feet of your airspace. And you never know when someone who gets it from you might have a severe illness and require hospitalization or even dies from influenza.

So let’s say a person does come into direct contact with the secretions of a patient who has Ebola, in order to get the disease you still have to get those secretions past the barrier of your skin. So if a healthcare worker, for example, is wearing protective gear but gets some on his skin while removing the gear AND the skin isn’t broken, like with a rash or cut, then it can be immediately washed off and the worker should be fine. The trouble comes when the worker unknowingly gets secretions on skin and it isn’t washed off or if the hand is contaminated and the person touches his mouth or eyes. Even then, contracting Ebola isn’t an automatic death sentence. In past outbreaks across the world, the fatality rate has sometimes been as high as 80-90% but fortunately the rate with this epidemic seems to be about 40-50%. The people who are most likely to survive Ebola are those with excellent supportive care given really early after diagnosis. Supportive care includes everything we do to help sick patients except for drugs or serums that are directly able to treat the virus. So this mostly includes stuff like hydration- giving plenty of fluids, possibly blood transfusions for patients who are bleeding, etc. Unfortunately, that seems not be be possible with many of the Africans who are infected. Since I’ve been doing work in Uganda since 2011 (this is my 6th visit there), I’ve realized that the Ugandans, and probably most Africans, are very self-reliant and do not seek medical care quickly when supportive care is most effective and helpful. They often try traditional medicines, herbs, and these actually do work sometimes for certain diseases- not Ebola-, or they just tough-out minor illnesses like colds and respiratory tract infections. They don’t even always seek care to suture wounds if not profusely bleeding and they think they can get it under control. This is one reason Tetanus is still a big problem and causes many deaths here. Even deep wounds can often heal on their own without stitches but the supportive care of a Tetanus Vaccine can truly be life saving and this isn’t obtained when a patient doesn’t seek healthcare. Ok, I digressed again. The bottom line is that I think that in the beginning of the outbreak, those affected probably didn’t realize the severity of their illness and seek care until it was too late. The longer the person suffers from the Ebola virus, the more virus particles grow in their blood and the more contagious they are to those who care for them. So not only is the prognosis much more grim, but more people become infected from the contagiousness of the body fluids. I would think currently the people in these countries are well aware of the symptoms and threat of Ebola and are trying to get to healthcare early, but their healthcare systems are breaking down due to the masses of those now infected and the numbers continue to grow. The countries where Ebola still has a strong grip, really need the help of the developed world. The USA should get involved, as we are doing, not only for the obvious humane reasons, but to also contain this disease before the numbers of those infected surpass the ability to get it under control. I just read an article in the NY Times today while on the flight that said an effective Ebola vaccine has been ready for human trials for 10 years but no drug company would sponsor it and provide the financing for this research because there wasn’t a market for it. From a business perspective, this makes sense, but this is a disease that should be in the interest of all the world to eradicate. It would be nice if drug companies could work together to solve this and share the cost burden or maybe World Leaders need to team up to figure this out. Unfortunately it has taken this growing Ebola epidemic to catch the world’s attention, but now there are plans for vaccine trials. I hope we can use this experience to look back for possible other untapped opportunities to arrest population-threatening diseases and think forward about how to get on top of this via research and infection control education before we are caught by surprise again.

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Ugandan Pharmacy Students Provide My Motivation

This in not an official U.S. Department of State (DOS) blog and the views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the DOS.

A beautiful fall day: blue sky and leaves changing colors at French Creek State Park in Pennsylvania

A beautiful fall day: blue sky and leaves changing colors at French Creek State Park in Pennsylvania

Greetings from Pennsylvania, USA. I am currently stateside and in between my 2nd and 3rd visits to Uganda as part of the Fulbright Specialist Project. The Autumn season is in full bloom here with the leaves on the trees turning from greens to yellows, oranges, reds, or browns and then dropping off the trees. I have included some pictures so that my Ugandan readers and others from parts of the world without this change in season can see what I mean. The weather has also turned cooler with highs around 65F (18C) and lows around 34F (1C). Although that seems cold to some, this is my favorite time of year.

A walk in the woods along a pathway covered with fallen leaves in French Creek State Park, PA Oct-2014

A walk in the woods along a pathway covered with fallen leaves in French Creek State Park, PA Oct-2014

If you are a regular reader you know I have been helping to develop curriculum to teach 3rd and 4th year pharmacy students Pharmaceutical Care Skills for the Pharmacy School at Makerere University. When I was there for the first 4 weeks of the semester, I taught the new course and introduced skills like how to talk to patients to gather information about their symptoms and the past medications taken. The students then learned to take this along with any pertinent data from the medical chart and determine if there are any drug therapy problems that a pharmacist could help to alleviate. Finally the students learned how to present this information to the physician in the form of a recommendation that could help improve the patient’s health outcomes.

Leaves in various stages of green turning to yellow, orange and reds.

Leaves in various stages of green turning to yellow, orange and reds.

The other part of the course is to take the information learned in class to the hospital where students interact with patients and their caregivers and work with the Pharmacists and Pharmacy Interns to apply their skills to help real patients get better. This is called Experiential Learning.

Since I’ve been away from Uganda, the Makerere faculty, along with assistance from USA volunteer Pharmacists working with HVO (Healthcare Volunteers Overseas), have been continuing to teach the course and work with students at Mulago National Referral Hospital. Although I’m not there on site, I have been able to keep up with the goings on via the Pharmacy Students’ Reflective writing assignment that is uploaded to the Makerere eLearning Management System. Not only has this allowed me to see the evidence of the students’ learning from their descriptions of how they have used their knowledge and skills at the hospital to help improve drug therapy for the patients, but often they have included their own comments about how the experiential learning component is helping them to see their role as pharmacists-to-be from another perspective. I get an overall sense from their insightful remarks that they are really motivated and excited about this new role. And, this motivates and excites me!! Here, see for yourself in the words of some of the Makerere Pharmacy students, which I have extracted from their Reflective Writing Assignments.

“Overall it is a great learning experience and gives us as students an insight of what to expect in the future as pharmacists. We get to see areas of improvement as a department and as a hospital in all. Students also get to practice and improve their clinical communication skills with both the doctors and fellow medical practitioners and also teaches students to work as a team, both as students and as team players in the health care system.’

I felt like I was an important member of the health care team since my advice could be important in patient care.”

“Felt encouraged to read more so that I can be in a better position to give medications and management of medical conditions.”

“The whole thought process to identify what exactly was ailing this patient was very stimulating and made me feel as though I was part of a real medical team. It made me realise that not everything in medicine is always black and white, and sometimes we are faced with enigmas, or what we may call idiosyncrasies.”

“First and foremost I am grateful for having the wonderful sessions on clinical pharmacy skills practice. I know this can revolutionize our practice in the field of pharmacy and delighted to be part of the squad to bring this revolution in the practice of pharmacy in Uganda and elsewhere. Thanks to all the lecturers and special thanks to KarenBeth Bohan.” (emphasis was the student’s)

“Today’s experience has been of great value in shaping my ways to approach and get whatever information to make my practice a success. For its said, one learns how to swim only from the water and also it is a common saying that you learn from your previous mistakes.”

“I must say it was an eye-opener towards my practice. I look up to building my clinical skills so I can become a competent pharmacist.”

“The experience I’ve had today and the information and skills I’ve acquired so far in clinical pharmacy have helped me get an interest in this branch of pharmacy and will improve on how I care for patients as a pharmacist in future. It has also changed what I think of pharmacy as a profession because I originally thought it was just about dispensing drugs and collecting a pay cheque! Am now realizing its wider and more interesting.”

“These hospital exposures are going to enable me improve my skills in relating with patients and making the right decisions that will improve drug therapy outcomes in the patients that I will deal with in the future.”

 

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Wild Things at Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda, continued…

This in not an official U.S. Department of State (DOS) blog and the views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the DOS.

 

Murchison Falls as seen from the Victoria Nile River boat ride

Murchison Falls as seen from the Victoria Nile River boat ride

During our three game drives, I think Jeff and I saw more of God’s wild creatures than ever I saw before on one trip. Here are some more pictures of the magnificent animal sightings.

Jeff standing on a rock at the top of these Magnificent Falls

Jeff standing on a rock at the top of these Magnificent Falls

As I write this, I am getting ready to leave Uganda but this time I am looking forward to returning in just 4 weeks to continue my work with the faculty at Makerere University School of Pharmacy and with the Pharmacists and Interns at Mulago National Referral Hospital. It is so nice to be able to assure my in-country partners that I’m not leaving them for long and that when I come back, I’ll bring even more curricular content that I have developed to help the students learn the Pharmaceutical Care Skills to help them make a positive impact on patient care. So, stayed tuned and in 1 month, look for more Ugandan adventures from my experiences going Out of the Pharmacy Classroom and Into Africa!

Elephant grazing by the side of and drinking from the Victoria Nile River

Elephant grazing by the side of and drinking from the Victoria Nile River

A pair of Crocodiles warming themselves in the sun

A pair of Crocodiles warming themselves in the sun

Hippo

Hippo

DSCN7790-African Fish Eagle Bird

The Puff Adder Snake that had been attacked by a Cobra

The Puff Adder Snake that had been attacked by a Cobra

A small herd of Cape Buffalo- They always seem to be looking right at us but the Ranger Guide said their sense of smell is what makes them look in our direction but their eyesight is very poor

A small herd of Cape Buffalo- They always seem to be looking right at us but the Ranger Guide said their sense of smell is what makes them look in our direction but their eyesight is very poor

A young Male Lion with the start of a mane looks on while the hyenas and jackals destroy what is left of his kill (or his lioness's kill)

A young Male Lion with the start of a mane looks on while the hyenas and jackals destroy what is left of his kill (or his lioness’s kill)

The Uganda Kob- this is the type of Antelope that the Hyena was chowing down on in the picture from Blog Post for 19Sept14

The Uganda Kob- this is the type of Antelope that the Hyena was chowing down on in the picture from Blog Post for 19Sept14

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We Went “Where the Wild Things Are”: A Safari To Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda

This in not an official U.S. Department of State (DOS) blog and the views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the DOS.

Giraffes with an Acacia Tree in the background

Giraffes with an Acacia Tree in the background

This is my 4th trip to Murchison Falls but I have been so excited to share it with my husband for the first time. We were going to see the “gentle giant” elephants, several different species of graceful antelopes, the awkward lumbering long-legged giraffes, hopefully a lion at rest basking in the sun, and many more of God’s wonderful creatures whom much of the world will never see in the wild. This trip, though, has been a bit different, although also very amazing.   We have learned that these animals truly are wild and the “circle of life” lives on.

We came upon this Lioness sitting right by the side of the road in the shade of a bush. Her recent kill was behind the bush. I took this picture from the car window, which was completely open. See how close I am by the bottom left hand corner where you see the window frame edge.

We came upon this Lioness sitting right by the side of the road in the shade of a bush. Her recent kill was behind the bush. I took this picture from the car window, which was completely open. See how close I am by the bottom left hand corner where you see the window frame edge.

On our first game drive, we came across a lioness panting by the side of the road, freshly worn out from her kill, which rested behind her- one of those graceful Jackson Hardebeest, with interesting ringed antlers.

The Kill

The Kill

Jackson Hartebeest, like the one killed by the lion

Jackson Hartebeest, like the one killed by the lion

The next morning we came across another lion’s kill, the remains being devoured by hyenas and jackals, while the male lion looked on from afar. Coming home from the drive to the top of the cascading mountains of water down Murchison Falls we saw a cobra snake attack a puff adder snake by the side of the road. We have no idea what prompted the fight between the serpents cursed to slink on their bellies for the remainder of time, but as the cobra slinked away, we watched the puff adder go through the convulsions of its death from the formers bite or spit. Today we learned that although the animals are beautiful creatures to look at, they are still very dangerous and their space needs to be respected.

This elephant crossed directly in front of our vehicle but not before looking at us as if he wanted to charge our vehicle. Luckily, he turned and sauntered off.

This elephant crossed directly in front of our vehicle but not before looking at us as if he wanted to charge our vehicle. Luckily, he turned and sauntered off.

Bumpy road to Murchison Falls.

Bumpy road to Murchison Falls.

Now a little background information: Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda, is in the Northwestern part of the country. From the far side of the park you can see the distant mountains of the Democratic Republic of the Congo across from Lake Albert. We entered via the Main Gate, just 30 minutes over a bumpy red dirt road from Masindi. Sam, our driver, rented a 4-wheel drive SUV Toyota Van with a roof that pops up for better game drive viewing per my request which ended up being a great decision. Throughout the game drives, we can stand and see 360 degrees of the Savannah and get really good shots with our cameras. Plus it is just plain fun to hang on to the top edge of the van for stability as we ride standing up throughout the park. At times, though, the bumps and ruts are so much we just have to sit down.

Borassus Palms dot the landscape.

Borassus Palms dot the landscape.

The park has four types of landscapes. You enter and drive quite a ways through a Tropical Rain Forest. We saw baboons scampering all over the road along with many birds and some black and white Colobus Monkeys. The park gradually flows into Woodland Savannah with much less dense trees and shrubs than the forest. After crossing the Victoria Nile River to Paraa Lodge, via the ferryboat, the land becomes successive segments of Woodland Savannah, Savannah Grasslands, and Borassus Palm Savannah over and over again throughout the large park. When the Borassus Palms spot the Savannah, it reminds me of the Truffula Trees from Dr. Seuss’s “The Lorax”. Some animals seem to roam the entire landscape regardless of the type of terrain, while others tend to seem to enjoy a specific area. I’m going to let our pictures do the rest of the talking but one last comment of explanation. When we Westerners want to take a trip such as this to see the African wildlife, we usually say we are planning going on a “safari” but that word actually means “journey”. Africans would say that we took a safari to Murchison Falls National Park, but each day we take “game drives” to see the wild animals. And, as you’ll see from our pictures this trip so far, we were able to see the “wild” part of nature in action. So enjoy the pictures and don’t get too frustrated with yourself when the Lion King’s “Circle of Life” song enters your mind and you can’t get rid of it the rest of the day. This so far has been a truly amazing experience!

Sunrise over the Savannah

Sunrise over the Savannah

A Hyena scavanges the kill of a lion while Jackal looks on

A Hyena scavanges the kill of a lion while Jackal looks on

A Vervet Monkey

A Vervet Monkey

As we drove through the beginning of the park we saw a python crawling across the road- my first snake siting ever in all of my trips to Uganda

As we drove through the beginning of the park we saw a python crawling across the road- my first snake siting ever in all of my trips to Uganda

Warthogs are a very common site all over the park.

Warthogs are a very common site all over the park.

Baboons welcome us as we drive into Murchison Falls Park

Baboons welcome us as we drive into Murchison Falls Park

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A Trip to Jinja and Masindi, Uganda

This in not an official U.S. Department of State (DOS) blog and the views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the DOS.

Ssezibwa Falls- Jeff, KarenBeth, Monty, Kiran, Russ (left to right)

Ssezibwa Falls- Jeff, KarenBeth, Monty, Kiran, Russ (left to right)

Over the past 2 days, I’ve been showing my husband, Jeff, my favorite places in Uganda and have been introducing him to all of the friends I work with while I’m here. He’s seen many pictures of these places but meeting the people and seeing the sights first-hand is so much better. On Tuesday we took a day trip to Jinja, Uganda, which is Northeast of Kampala to the Source of the great Nile River. Since my driver’s vehicle could hold more than just the two of us, I invited my housemate, Monty, and two other Fulbrighters to join us, Russ and Kiran, and true to the saying, more was merrier! We had a fantastic trip.

Jeff and KarenBeth on the boat ride to the Source of the Nile

Jeff and KarenBeth on the boat ride to the Source of the Nile

We couldn’t have asked for better weather and the guides for both Ssezibwa Falls and the boat ride to the Source of the Nile were great. We did split up for the late afternoon, though, and Jeff and I headed to the Jinja Sailing Club where we ate a delicious, slow-paced meal right on the shores of Lake Victoria, while the others explored the shops of downtown Jinja.

Banana Tree by the side of the road

Banana Tree by the side of the road

We didn’t leave the area until about 6:30pm which landed us in pretty bad traffic. By the time we reached home close to 10pm, we were ready for bed. But, since Jeff and I were leaving Kampala in the morning for the rest of our vacation, we had to stay up quite a bit later to pack.

A Monitor Lizard at the Source of the Nile

A Monitor Lizard at the Source of the Nile

KarenBeth and Jeff at the Source of the Nile River

KarenBeth and Jeff at the Source of the Nile River

Bright and early Wednesday morning at 7am we were ready and awaiting our driver for the trip to Masindi. Sam, my trusted driver on the Masindi leg of my trips since 2011, drove to Kampala with a friend to pick us up and finally arrived at about 8am after a delay due to traffic. You have probably realized a recurring theme: traffic is a major issue in and around Kampala. Anyway, once on the road, having said goodbye to my Kampala friends, Jeff and I headed for Masindi, but first stop, Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. White Rhinos, which are the type this sanctuary houses, used to be native to Murchison Falls and other parks in Uganda, but due to poaching they became extinct.

Rhino Trio- Mom and Baby (6 months old) with Dad off to the side

Rhino Trio- Mom and Baby (6 months old) with Dad off to the side

This park is trying to raise and protect a large herd so that they can eventually be released back into their own native habitat. Protecting them, even while in the sanctuary, is no easy feat. Poachers can be ruthless and try many things to gain access to desired animals. The Ziwa Sanctuary has a fleet of armed guards that track the Rhinos and chronicle their behavior day and night both to make sure they are safe, but also to learn more about their lives. For example, they are able to know when mating occurs and if the procedure lasts at least 45min, they know the activity was successful. Well, maybe that was too much information for you, but they are really able to learn a lot about the Rhinos.

The Rhino Mom is standing up nursing her baby

The Rhino Mom is standing up nursing her baby

 

After Rhino Trekking, we headed on to Masindi where we checked into the hotel where I always stay. It was so cool to be recognized by name and welcomed by the staff there. I also wanted Jeff to meet the people I work with at Masindi-Kitara Medical Center so I had emailed them a couple of weeks ago to check on stopping by. We were greeted very warmly upon arrival and the Business Manger gave Jeff a detailed tour of the facility, which is quite nice compared to the District Government hospitals and clinics. Again, it felt so good to be among friends and I look forward to working with them next April when I bring my US pharmacy students.

One of the last stops for the day was at the Orange Mobile Phone store to get more airtime minutes. The purchase went smoothly, but as I was leaving the store, a diminutive older man yielding a wooden stick that looked like a cane assaulted me. I was pretty much in shock. He only barely touched me with the stick but right away went to strike again. Jeff was thinking quickly and went to intercept and as he did the whole episode came to the attention of the people inside the shop. A man ran out and scared away the one with the stick, although he had to exert some amount of force to do this. All the while the attacker was speaking in a language I didn’t understand so I asked my driver later what he was saying. Sam said this was a guy who is known to be “crazy” and he was shouting something like “You are all going to pay, every last one of you.” Well, to say the least, that was a bit unnerving but it ended well with no one hurt. Despite this, we truly did have a lovely day and ended it with a huge meal at the New Court View, the place where we are staying but also the best restaurant in town. I had the sizzling beef dish that my past pharmacy students know very well and Jeff had the whole deep fried tilapia fish. This fish is local and right out of Lake Victoria. I know how delicious it is, despite seeing the head and tail and all of the fins, as I had it yesterday for dinner at the Jinja Sailing Club. Tomorrow, on to Murchison Falls National Park and our animal safari.

 

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