Africa Part One

Africapartone-7

(The view of Uganda.)

 From April 8th till May 15th I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Africa for work and then to Iceland to bike across the country. I have yet to write about any of the trip on here as it takes a while to let it sink in.  I still don’t think it has, but I’m ready to give it a try.  I will start with a part one and try and summarize some of the experiences and emotions I got to experience.  I will try and keep it as short and exciting as possible for my friends from the era of immediate satisfaction.

As I said above, I had the fantastic opportunity to go to Mulago hospital in Uganda for three weeks with UBC.  I had the chance to video surgeries, and take photos all around the hospital for different publications. I will link to a few of them below.

Going to Africa can be a daunting task to think about.  I didn’t know what to expect, so I decided the best idea was to go in with no expectations and try to experience each day for what it was. During the three weeks in Uganda our team lived right on the hospital grounds.  Every day I was immersed in the crazy world of medicine in a third world country.

Africapartone-4

( A mother and her sister visit her daughter after surgery)

During this time I witnessed some of the worst human conditions I had ever seen.  People were everywhere, often in critical condition, just waiting for help.  Families did their laundry in the fields as they lived on the floors of the hospital taking care of their sick family member awaiting care. I witnessed my share of physically gruesome conditions, but it was the emotional ones that were the hardest to accept.  A man came to visit us one day because his surgery had not worked.  The only thing it did was tell him that he was HIV positive.  Everyone knows about the affect aids has had in Africa, but it is a different experience to sit with a man who just had his world crash in on him.  He was scarred, confused, and teary eyed as he felt the weight of something he didn’t truly understand.

It is a common question for people to ask me how my trip was. It is a very polite thing to ask, but very hard to give an answer. There are so many different emotions I felt during this time that I am still wrapping my head around it.  Of course everyday had terrible things, but everyday was also filled with a lot of hope. This is mostly due to the amazing spirit of the people of Africa. It became much easier to focus on the positive when they remained so positive all the time.  Before I left, my sister said people go to Africa for the animals, but the people are really what make it special. She is 100 percent correct. (Although giraffes are amazing!)

During my time in the hospital I had the opportunity to video and photograph a number of surgeries and other medical procedures.  How many people get the chance to be in an OR in Africa?  I couldn’t help but be excited for a chance to learn about something totally outside of my comfort zone. Between the blood and the heat in the rooms It felt like a victory to just walk out at the end of the day without fainting, but the experience was totally worth the discomfort.

Africapartone-6

(Dr. O’Brien doing his thing in the OR. True fact, He has been compared to a Jedi Master)

One of my favourite memories in the Hospital was getting to photograph a prosthetic arm fitting.  The man had lost both of his arms while driving a motorcycle. For the past year his mother had to bath him, change him and feed him. He was a very solemn man, but I will never forget the joy on his face when he was able to write his name for the first time. You could see his independence coming back to him with each letter and it made me realize how lucky I was to get to capture this moment for him. It reminded me why I love photography.

Africapartone-5

After my days in the hospital I would go out into the streets and chat with people and photograph them if they wanted.  I met a friend named John who became my photo assistant and he would show me all around Uganda. One of the first days we went out it began to rain and so we ran into a nearby township to get shelter. I was slightly hesitant about going in with my expensive camera gear after what you hear about in the news, but do you know what happened to me when I walked in?  A group of kids ran up to me and hugged me!

Here are some of the kids I met in Uganda:

Africapartone-2

Africapartone-3
Africapartone-8
(The one thing I noticed is how much weight they carry in their eyes. They are not the playful eyes of a North American child, but rather eyes that have experienced things beyond their years. )
In conclusion the hospital taught me a lot about Life.  I was introduced to death and suffering, but I also saw how happiness and joy overshadowed the negative.  I learned how to appreciate everyday and find the positive in the things around me. I also learned to not shy away from our day to day challenges because in the end those are part of the adventure.  So, How was Africa?  I suppose it’s not a black and white answer.  It was very good and very bad. It was joyous and frustrating at the same time.  I think more than anything though it was life changing.

Thanks for making it this far!  Next week I will talk about my journey to Kenya and Iceland!!!

Here are links to some footage that has already been released:

Global

Trek Magazine