After a little snag, safe in Kampala!

After years of international travel riddled with complications, I think that I have just experienced my most dramatic journey yet. About two weeks ago, I left Boston to travel to work with Pearl Microfinance in Kampala, Uganda. I had planned to land in Nairobi on Tuesday and then spend three days in Nairobi before traveling to Kampala Friday evening.

All went as planned. As I have lived in Nairobi before, my time there was spent visiting old friends and meeting all the new babies! Despite my happy time in Nairobi, as I headed to the airport Friday evening I was thrilled to finally be on my way to Kampala. I boarded the plane and sat down next to one of the heroes working on AIDS in Africa; listening to his story made the plane ride go by very quickly.

About 10 minutes before landing, I began to pour sweat and a sharp pain in my stomach began that scared me, despite all my years of stomach ailments from travel. After landing, and some chaos on the jet way, I met my waiting, and now very worried host family, who rushed me to the hospital.

Thus began a long night in a hospital with cockroaches in the bathrooms, ants under the beds, and staff who seemed unconcerned about me, and my insect company. Somehow, despite my lack of local currency and a phone that let me make international calls, I spent the night wide-awake on the phone with Kiva, our wonderful medical insurance program MEDEX (who had a doctor from the US consulting with my doctor within an hour), and my increasingly worried family.

The following morning, I was medically evacuated to a hospital in Nairobi where a series of tests revealed that I had had a cyst on my ovary that had twisted causing the severe on set of pain. However, it seemed to have untwisted, and I was feeling better – the pain had subsided over the day and my spirits has been revived by the awesome experience of being medically evacuated. (First, I rode in an ambulance with no lights and no sirens, which they compensated for by continually beeping – and then, I was put in a little tiny airplane where I was tied down to a stretcher, my IV bag was clipped to the light socket, and I had so many machines attached to me I felt like Dr. Octopus from the Spiderman.)

After determining that I would not need emergency surgery, the doctors sent me home with a friend of mine who is currently living in Nairobi. I rested for a week, went back to the doctor a few times for various tests which eventually showed that the cyst had dissolved, and after being given the go ahead – planned my trip to Kampala for a second time.

This time during the landing, my only stress was that the location of the airport in Uganda is such that you are quite sure you are going to land in Lake Victoria! You lean forward in your seat hoping that your forward momentum will encourage the plane to stretch a little further.

So far, Kampala has been wonderful – it is a bustling, hot, friendly place, that is clearly filled with adventures waiting to be had! I have only been at Pearl for about a day and a half, and so far, my days are filled with meetings with very impressive people, reading amazingly organized manuals, and other tasks that go along with the first days at a great new job. I head to the field tomorrow to meet with some borrower groups. I hope to have more news of microfinance soon!

During all my chaos – Grace, the Kiva coordinator here, was working tirelessly to prepare borrower profiles! Watch in the upcoming week for new loans from Pearl Microfinance!


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