Fever Back After 2 Days In A 2 Year Old The Travelling Psychologist Series 2 – Down in Kampala

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The Travelling Psychologist Series 2 – Down in Kampala

Introduction:

Your first stop in Uganda is usually Entebbe airport in the far south of the country, which is located near Lake Victoria. I prepared so many documents at the visa office in Beijing (where I was traveling from) yellow fever certificate, bank statements, photocopies of various forms. Entering the line for immigration and visa extension I was confronted by a rather large lady behind the bulletproof glass. She said, “passport” Stamp, one month extension, “thank you sir have a good stay” I pushed all the papers to her, she looked at me, no need, goodbye! I was so disappointed, if she knew the sweat and tears put all that together in China before I came, would she just look to make me feel better?

Kampala

The capital of Uganda is Kampala, sprawling, dirty, on a hill, crowded and downright smelly. Is it exciting for the visitor, are there fascinating things to see, do you feel like you are in deepest Africa, maybe not, but you have just arrived and are starting to discover that pavements are full of holes, cracks and unevenness? So walking meant a constant eye on your feet, the person coming your way and the many obstacles in your way. I remember seeing a photo of a temple (Hindu), in the brochure of the Ugandan consulate in Beijing, looking so grand and white. Yes, there it was, dirty looking, damaged in many places and worn by time. This must have been a common occurrence in Kampala between tourist photos and the real thing, this is a city that is falling apart, and even the new buildings that seem to be about 10 years old look worn and tired. Damage is everywhere, in the road, streets, buildings and general environment. As downtowns go it’s among the worst I’ve seen. The best thing they could do with the place is tear it down and start over. Can I say anything complementary well to be honest no? However, this is East Africa, abandoned by colonialism in 1962 and run away by tribalism ever since. Where HIV and polygamy are still the main social concerns, where religion is based on missionary zeal and Old Testament hellfire, where women are still third-class citizens in the minds of men, where railroad tracks are overgrown and deserted, taxis disguised. because buses go around in confusion and terror for both pedestrians and passengers. Suicidal motorcycle riders everywhere weave in and out of the chaotic traffic competing to sell the back seat to anyone willing to risk their lives behind them as they try to maneuver in front of the bus/taxi and cars. Every car is scratched or damaged in some way, so buying a new car in Kampala is probably not the best decision you can make. The roads have tar that is so soft in the heat that much of it simply melts and leaves huge holes in the road breaking many cars through violent ups and downs as they try to drive over or around the damage. In some places they have what we in England call sleeping cops, a hump in the road to calm the traffic. In Uganda those humps are so high and big the bottom of any car with some loaded scraps along the top of the humps with a screech of metal against tarmac. As a passenger in the back seat it means jumping to the ceiling, bouncing your head and abruptly sitting down again. In addition to this they have some parts that have several smaller humps of four together, so driving over them is the joy of being shaken to death and talking funny for a few moments.

The wildlife, after all this is Africa hides and I’m not sure where? Many exotic birds are around but not much else. My mistress tells me every evening and morning that the monkeys come across the roofs and talk loudly. The dogs go crazy trying to catch them. However, after three weeks I still haven’t seen them once, despite getting up early with camera in hand to go look for them. My landlady swears they are there every day – but I now suspect the troupe went on holiday to Kenya for the rainy season. Also a green snake was in the garden but when I got there with my camera (seconds) it was gone? The locals tell me that if you want to see the animals now you have to go to the Wildlife Park and pay. I think I saw more wildlife in Shanghai than Kampala. It’s early days though and I have to be patient and wait.

My purpose being here is of course to work. The Ugandan consulting association invited me to give a speech at their conference and a local consulting company offered me a partnership to help them streamline their operations and upgrade them. Besides that I will be teaching some psychology courses at the local universities. There is a large expat community in Kampala and everyone of course speaks English so unlike my time in China at least I can understand everyone except when they speak in the local dialects. I did a tour of the hospitals here, (very poor quality most built in the 1940s by the British and then in the hands of the Ugandan government left to ruin) most of the mentally ill are locked behind high fences with barbed wire to keep . them from escape. In one hospital the staff told me they were terrified to even go into the mental ward because the patients were unsupervised and roaming freely. I saw this myself and thought back to Bedlam hospital in London 200 years ago – and that’s here now! No Quaker humanism in Uganda to treat mental illness with compassion and moral healing. I was offered one position at one such hospital in Ishaka, about 5 hours outside of Kampala, but the owner had just come out of prison being held on a tax-evasion charge and he was so arrogant that I decided it might not be best to participate. The shame is that I would relish the challenge of bringing the mental part of the hospital into the 21st century and saving the misery of all those patients who are trapped in an endless cycle of 1950s psychiatric thinking and methods. Drugs, confinement and punishment – still the only thing psychiatry understands. However, you can’t help them if the boss is in and out of jail and likely to disappear for good at any moment throwing the whole thing into disarray.

Soon I will have to decide if I will stay longer or move on. I have a two month visa that is running out and have to pay $850 to renew for one year. If I do that, I will make a three-year commitment to improve Uganda’s counselling, training and psychology through the local companies and see how the penny drops.

I can’t recommend Uganda as a desirable place, but when you come to a third world country, you should lower your expectations but not your desire to improve it. The days of Idi Amin are already gone, and peace is over the country but like every African state local crime is very high (if my wallet was already lifted on a taxi/bus) and you have to watch out for mafia rule here. I’ll see in a few weeks if I stay or move on – life is about travel, experience and adventure – so live your life don’t let life live you.

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