I was sitting at the airport in Melbourne waiting for a flight to Hong Kong when I saw the email come through. It was advertising an assignment in my field of work, based in Uganda. I instantly replied expressing my interest in the opportunity. Fast forward four months and here we are, living in Africa.
In 2014 I studied a post grad in social impact. In the years preceding I had been volunteering on the side for a not for profit called Project Futures, an organisation that supports women and children affected by human trafficking and I was starting to think about how I could potentially shift the direction of my career. So in 2016 when I was contacted by an Australia-based, global retailer that had a philanthropic arm with global projects, it was a no-brainer. I had actually written a paper on their work when I was studying. I didn’t know how or if I could make the transition but I was keen. I could never have imagined that an opportunity that allowed me to use my skills and experience within the foundation and be based in Africa would come up but I guess I must have manifested it because here I am.
I’ve travelled a lot but I’d never been to Africa. It had always been on the list, I just hadn’t made it yet.
Thankfully my employer was supportive of my partner Logan joining me on the assignment. Like most people we talked to, his employer said it was too good an opportunity to pass by and agreed to give him a 12 month sabbatical. Everything was gradually coming together and soon enough we were loading our few possessions into a 4 x 4 storage unit and headed to the airport.
In Melbourne we lived separately, I was in a beautiful warehouse apartment with a friend in Fitzroy and Logan was in a classic share-house a couple of streets away. Our new living arrangements are very, very different. We live in a hotel room. It has a bed, a bathroom, a small table and a balcony. It’s cosy but we’ve adjusted and made it feel homely.
Luckily we have a pool and a pretty decent gym. It may sound lush but let me put things in perspective. The Brovad is the biggest hotel in Masaka and it’s probably the highlight of the town. Other than that there’s very little going on. A lot of locals come to the hotel on weekends to take swimming lessons, entertain the kids or for impromptu pool parties. It’s also been the destination for a school excursion in the time we’ve lived there. I was laying by the pool one Friday afternoon when about 60 secondary school students rolled in and stood around the pool in their uniforms just kind of staring at it and laughing for about half an hour.
Masaka is a rural town about three hours south of Kampala. When we first arrived we drove straight from the airport in Entebbe to Masaka so it wasn’t until after our first visit to Kampala that we realised just how rural it is. Most of the shops fit into four categories; stationary, telecommunications, fabric and food. On our first weekend we walked into town to explore, we started with a lap of the main street followed by a visit to the market, which switches from a farmers market to second-hand clothes stalls depending on the day. Within the first few hours we had pretty much completed the grand tour. Since settling in we’ve found our favourite haunts, there’s about four on rotation that we frequent. Plot 99 is our favourite purely for the view.
Have a read about our first African adventure – Lake Mburo National Park