By Emma Clements, Latitudes Uganda Spring ’18

When I first arrived at the airport I had no idea what to expect. Were people going to be mean? Would I get lost? How many marriage proposals would I get? Mosquitos? Weather? Did I pack enough? With all these questions running through my mind, I stepped out of the airplane and into a new beginning to an end. After dealing with all of the hassles we got in customs, we finally were on our way to the first place we would rest before crossing the border into Uganda the next day. First impressions are what count, so my boss at Gorilla Highlands, Miha Logar, had to make sure we had the best people for introductions. I was shocked by so many things here which is always a good thing. Some of those “first impressions” or the things that came to shock me are:

1. The food is absolutely delicious.

This didn’t come as much of a shock to me because many of my other traveler friends told me how savory the street food was going to be here. Top on my list is a rolex. You get to watch them make it, which always makes your food taste better when you get to see them make it, I think. One thing about the food that was shocking though was that I got to eat some onion rings and a cheeseburger! Who would have thought I could get the classic American meal in almost any restaurant here in Africa!

2. The sights and sounds are incredible.

When you come to live in a rural hostel in Uganda you don’t exactly expect to see an image from a fairytale or hear a fairytale every day when you wake up. If you look out you can see different islands with different villages all living different lives. One island is the “Zebra Island”, one island is “Tom’s Island”, and so many more (29 to be exact). With all slightly different beautiful views over the glistening lake, I hope to see all of them! Now, the sounds are what makes it even more like a fairytale, with thousands of birds waking you up each morning. Almost makes you feel like Cinderella with all the birds as your friends (especially when they fly through the kitchen sometimes).

3. African massages on the first day!

What I mean by this is that the car rides are always bumpy so you will always get a “nice massage.” Our taxi driver, Davis, has a shockingly nice car (nicer than mine) with a rearview mirror displaying Justin Bieber music videos. That is probably a first impression that is bound to stick but also probably bound to change by the end.

4. People

The people are so kind. Everywhere I go I always seem to find amazing, kind, helpful people. Some of these incredible people I have met are among locals and just travelers that come by and tell us of their incredible, and sometimes scary, stories. Some of these people are our cook, Antony; he is one of the locals who went to school here at Edirisa and grew up here. He is the hardest worker I ever met (20 orders in one night all by himself), and one of the most genuine people I have met. Owen, he is our orientation friend who helped show us around the first day. He is much more than our orientation person though, he is our “Tata” which is Dad. He always makes sure we are settling in well and even comes to watch football with us and play pool! Then, there are all the amazing travelers that come through this hostel. One of which told us the story how they have been hitchhiking for six years! All of these incredible people I met and continue to meet have and will shape my life forever.

5. Living with only boys…

My first thought was that I was going to have to deal with a messy room, a lot of Axe spray, and having to always go somewhere else to change because they won’t leave the room (which none of that is completely wrong). However, living with boys isn’t that horrible (besides the messy room and Axe spray). They are nice and we all work together as a great team with editing videos for Miha! I think whenever living with new people it is always a gamble on if you are going to get along or not and I think these three months are going to be great!

Those are just some of the few thoughts I had my first two weeks in Africa. I am sure a lot is going to change (because first impressions aren’t always correct). I am excited about my journey in Africa and to see all that we accomplish as a team—and all that I accomplish on my path to self-discovery.