30th March 2015 – Kampala and the journey North

I had a restful night that was only slightly disturbed by the 5am prayer call from the local mosque… Richard, Katja and myself grabbed breakfast at our hotel and chatted about the plans for the day. The first challenge of the day was negotiating the traffic on our way over to meet with Cerdic Hall (from the Butabika-East London Link) in the Wellbeing Hall at the Mulago campus of Makerere University. Cerdic has been visiting Uganda over the last 2 weeks. Cerdic and I spent the morning co-facilitating a contextual behavioural workshop with staff from Butabika Hospital. Our session was intended as a follow-up from an introductory session that Cerdic did with the staff about 10 days ago. As I learned during my first visit to Butabika hospital last August, the staff at Butabika are doing an incredible job under a great deal of pressure.

In addition to his support for the staff at Butabika, Cerdic has been very involved in supporting the Heartsounds project – which focuses on supporting people with a lived experience of mental health difficulties to be involved as peer support workers. Cerdic recently completed a chapter on this project for the textbook that we are editing on Global Mental Health. It was great to catch up with him and to co-facilitate the session for the Butabika staff.

We immediately got on the road north to Lira. We left Kampala at 12.45pm before arriving in Lira at 6.00pm. Despite initial good progress, the pace of travel slowed somewhat the further north that we went. This was due to major road works taking place. Julius our drive did a great job of negotiating pot-holes and the various lane closures. Rosco, Richard, Katja and myself spent the time chatting about a variety of topics including intercultural communication, transgenerational trauma and of course the research project that we are undertaking in Lira. As rural Uganda streamed by our windows and the red earth lining the road stretched out in front of us, we also practiced some Lango words. Lango is the language spoken by people living in the Lira district. Importat words that picked up were – ‘to think’ (Tamo, paro) and ‘emotions’ (cuny atingere). There was also some time for dozing during the trip. The highlight of the journey was seeing the mighty Karuma river. We also got to see a troop of baboons nonchalantly sitting by the road side, grooming each other. We received a warm welcome at the Pauline Hotel where we will be based for the duration of the research project. It has been a busy 2 days of travelling. Sleep is calling.

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Working multilingually to promote wellbeing in Northern Uganda

29th March 2015 – Travelling to Uganda

It was an early start this morning. The alarm went off at 2.30am. Bearing in mind that the clocks had gone forward at 1am to mark the switch to British summertime, that did not provide a whole lot of time for sleep. I arrived at the airport at 3.30am and met with Katja. Whereas I managed to get about 3.5 hours sleep (in between waking up to remember things that I had forgotten to pack!), Katja had opted to stay awake right through – a brave choice. There was a delay in the departure of our flight from Glasgow owing to a runway closure at Amsterdam’s Schipol airport where we were travelling to get our connecting flight on to Entebbe (via a stop at Kigali’s airport in Rwanda). I felt right at home being sandwiched between, on one side, a man from Islandmagee, Northern Ireland (my home country), and on the other a man from Brasov, Romania (the country that my fiancé, Catalina hails from, and that I have had the pleasure of visiting a number of times). It was a seating arrangement that vividly represented the important emotional ties that exist in my life, and it was great to chat with both parties about people and places that we had in common. We met with Richard at Schipol and it was great to get our first opportunity to come together as the UK component of the research team. There was a delay in the flight departing from Schipol; fortunately I was able to get some sleep as the plane rested on the tarmac. Catalina had recently bought me Arianna Huffington’s book ‘Thrive’, and I was able to make a start on it during the flight. In the book Huffington (the hugely successful founder of the Huffington Post) reflects on important lessons that can assist people to find greater peace, fulfillment and meaning in life. Specifically, she highlights the concept of the Third Metric that is intended to balance out a narrow focus on how ‘success’ has traditionally been assessed using two other metrics i.e: money and power. Huffington persuasively explores the benefits that can be gained from fostering constituent aspects of the Third Metric namely: wellbeing, wonder, wisdom, and willingness to give of ourselves. The content of the opening chapters of the book, and the way in which the material highlights the growing rates of work-related stress (and associated physical health complications) very much resonates with the busyness that I have been experiencing at work and my noticing of the compromises that I have been making in other aspects of my life to accommodate this. Food for thought. Following on from the rather frantic efforts to prepare for the trip, reading this material has helped me to realign my perspective for our visit to Uganda, and has brought my focus back to the importance of being present with people and connecting with them through the work that we will be doing. The research project has been designed as a means of finding ways to support the psychosocial wellbeing of people living in Lira. The project is part of an AHRC project entitled ‘Researching Multingually: At the borders of language, the body, law and the state’:

http://researching-multilingually-at-borders.com

http://researching-multilingually-at-borders.com/?page_id=810

I hope that we can embody this vision in the connections that we make with the local people that we will be meeting and working with.