25 May 2010

Learning Uganda

The first thing I did after going through invitation kit, spreading the news, and failing in attempts at catching my breath was start to learn more about Uganda. Which, in all honesty, meant learning basically anything about Uganda. My knowledge of the country was limited to the name of the capital (Kampala), the fact that it was landlocked (although, turns out it's a lot further north than I was first picturing in my mind's-eye map of Africa), and the somewhat embarrassing fact that I saw The Last King of Scotland in the theatre but haven't seen Invisible Children yet (even though The Last King of Scotland was a really good movie). Basically, I have a lot to learn, and so I started at the beginning.

Uganda is a landlocked (but we knew that already) country (we knew this too) in Eastern Africa (knew it!).

It shares borders (and this is new info we're learning now) with Kenya to the east, Sudan to the north, the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, Rwanda to the southwest, and Tanzania to the south. But hey, let's all agree not to tell Mom about that whole Sudan/Rwanda/Congo thing though. She'll worry. The southern part of the country also includes a large portion of Lake Victoria (which is the largest tropical lake in the world, and the second largest freshwater lake, behind only Lake Superior).

Size-wise, Uganda is slightly smaller than Oregon. So who knows? Maybe I'll end up in the Sunriver of Uganda. I'll have to find out which country has the Seattle to Uganda's Portland though, and go there, too.

From what I could find on the weather, Uganda has pretty ideal conditions for an equatorial country. While the altitude changes obviously dictate changes in the climate, from what I've read, temperatures throughout the year stay pretty consistently around 75-85 dF, with nights cooling down to 50-60ish dF. It can be cooler at higher altitudes, since Uganda ranges from 1000-2400m above sea-level (gradually sloping downward as you go north towards Sudan). The long rainy season goes from March to May, and the short rains are between October and November, but apparently it can rain any time of year. Basically, it rains. Be ready for rain. Because it's going to rain. However, because of the altitude, the humidity is fairly low, despite the warm temperatures and rain. Allegedly. So, according to the internets, all that goes together to give Uganda one of the most pleasant climates in the world. Bam.

Like a lot of African countries, the population of Uganda is made up of a lot of different ethnic groups without one single majority. Since it was a British colony until 1962, English is the official language (along with Swahili, but that's a whole 'nother story), but there are about forty different languages in use these days. Fortunately, I'll only have to probably have a really hard time trying to learn one of those.

The current population estimate is ~32.4 million people, with a median age of 15 (!!!) years old, and a life-expectancy currently around 53 years. That median age blew my mind when I first read it. I mean, compare that to the US, where the median age is almost 36, or to a lot of Europe where it's almost 40 or even higher. It shouldn't be unexpected, I guess, when you have entire generations in Africa being wiped out by AIDS, but I was still pretty shocked.

Despite those numbers, and despite the things that Uganda is most infamous for -- Idi Amin and the 300,000 people who died during his eight-year rule; the 20,000 children kidnapped since 1987 and forced to become soldiers and slaves; and most recently, the proposal of a bill that would make homosexuality punishable by death -- Uganda has made a lot of good progress forward. Specifically in regards to HIV/AIDS.

I'm going to make another post about HIV/AIDS in Uganda (and the progress they've made) later, since that's what I'm going to be working with when I get there. But I wanted to end this post on some sort of positive note. Because I am excited to go.

The world's a messed up place and I'm excited to go out and try to un-mess some of it.

(BTW: That's Uganda's flag up there. Wacky, huh?)

1 comment:

  1. Too late. I read this. But then, you've been wandering away since you were a tiny tot. I suppose Uganda isn't much worse than the middle of (four-lane) Mira Mesa Blvd, where you placidly stood as a one-year-old, cracker in hand. Even then, you knew snacks were essential on adventures.

    Seriously...so very, very proud of you. Very!