The Travel Odyssey to Kampala

The trip from Seattle to Entebbe, Uganda was every bit as tiring as I’d feared it would be. I had at least been reassured that Entebbe was the right airport through which to arrive in Kampala, one of those many niggling worries I had in the final few days.  It is amazing how hard it is to pack for 90 days.  Even though Kampala is a major urban area and thus I could likely replace anything I really needed, somehow missing packing something essential seems so wrong.

When the seatbelt sign went off after my 27.5 hour travel odyssey, my first thought was “Oh my what am I doing?”  Fortunately, that feeling passed quickly.  The Entebbe airport looked like most other airports, and as I was led to expect, getting the visa was a straightforward process.  I am now the proud owner of a 60 day visa for Uganda.  Since I am returning to the US in late September for the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, I will have the chance to get another visa and not have to worry about getting into trouble with the Uganda immigration authorities.  I consider this a good thing. J

Arriving at night meant that I didn’t get to see much on the 40-some odd kilometer drive from Entebbe to Kampala, so my first real view of Kampala came the next morning on the drive into the UNICEF office, but day one at the office will be the subject of the next post.

I am currently staying with one of my new colleagues at the office while I look for someplace to live here.  She’s got a beautiful back garden and we’ve already had some very pleasant and relaxing evenings on her back porch sipping wine, looking at the foliage, listening the birds and insects, and enjoying the temperate evening weather.

Next up, day one at the office and morning one, in all its (at least for the morning loud) glory.

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Sabbatical Planning

I’m doing a sabbatical so what does that mean?  My employer (I often call it my company, but I didn’t found it and I don’t own it, but I feel it is partly mine anyway) ThoughtWorks grants a 3-month sabbatical to people who stay with the company 10 years.  They began the program a couple of years ago, and I have to admit that since then I’ve been anxiously awaiting my time.  I quite vividly remember the run-up to my father’s eventual sabbatical.  His had been delayed twice due to the (from the perspective of his sabbatical) untimely arrival of two of his three children (I believe I might have been one of the offenders, but I am not sure it matters much now).

In a recent conversation with my Dad, we were discussing what a sabbatical was supposed to be.  It is first and foremost an opportunity to advance in knowledge or in a profession in a way that simply isn’t possible within the confines of the current job.  A sabbatical might be about learning some new facet of the profession or even something completely unrelated. It might be about applying the sustained effort needed to write a book or develop an idea.  Attractive as it might sound, simply sitting on the beach reading summertime fiction doesn’t qualify, at least under the official definition.

When I started thinking about what I wanted to do, I came up with three major objectives:  a) Learn something about a completely different culture, b) Do something that improves life for those in need, c) Do something that takes advantage of who I am.  So, something like running cables to help a university in Haiti wouldn’t satisfy the third objective since it doesn’t really leverage my skills.    I felt it important that any undertaking satisfy all three of these objectives.

So, what am I doing?  Through an introduction from Jeff Wishnie, our Director of Social Engagements (and no, this doesn’t mean he chairs the party committee), I will be working with the Technology For Development (T4D) Office of UNICEF in Kampala, Uganda.  I will be focusing on helping to bring some of their pilot projects in individual areas to a national level.  I will also be working to establish ties for their office with the local universities and user groups.  Or at least that’s the initial plan.  Things will become more clear when I arrive.

The travel time from Seattle to Uganda is about 27.5 hours, including stops in New York and then in Amsterdam. I will initially be staying with one of the women at the office in Kampala, with a search for local accommodations high up on the logistics list to sort out.  Wish me luck!

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This is new blog, initially documenting Rebecca’s sabbatical, which will be starting 9 August, 2010.

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