From 32 degrees to -7 degrees in one week

I’m taking a detour on my way home to Canada from Uganda. For the last three days I’ve been in Munich, Germany, and today I’m in Nuremberg on a riverboat. Tomorrow we embark on a week-long journey to Vienna, and I’ll fly home from there to Vancouver on December 15.

I have left Uganda but it hasn’t left me. I think of it every day – of my friends on the team and of the wonderful people I met. I think of the work of the Ugandan Co-operative Alliance and pray for its continued success. I remember Rashid, our driver, and his friendliness and pride in his work. And I think of Prince, the baby who reached out for me to pick him up, and hope he’ll have a good life. At eight months old he’ll never remember me, but I will never forget him.

When I return to Canada I’ll begin the work of telling the stories of the Ugandans I met. And perhaps I may post them here still. But for the next week, if you want to read about my adventures, I invite you to check out my new blog: Debbie Does Danube.

PS – Don’t call me Debbie.

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Put me in a metal tube and launch me into the sky

This is it: The Big Day. I’m blogging now from Vancouver International Airport, where I’ve just downed a California omelette to help my stomach deal with the malaria medication, which is bearable but not great. I’m flying to Toronto, where I’ll meet the rest of the team, then we’re all travelling tonight to London and Entebbe.

I know people have travelled to Africa before. And I know people have taken much wilder journeys than mine – witness Hilary Clinton, who has just flown to the Middle East to try to stop a war. But although I myself have been to interesting places like the Arctic, this trip feels different to me. I feel like I’m making up a story when I tell people I’m flying to Uganda.

I’ve already had one adventure today. My taxi driver asked for my help when I return to Canada because, he said, I seem like a sympathetic person. He told me he thinks he’s being followed and that he needs help with detective agencies. A little alarmed, I explained that I am not the right person to help him and instead directed him to contact the police. I hope he’ll be okay. That was the second-most interesting cab ride I’ve ever had, after the cab driver in Kansas City who was high during our ride.

It is surprisingly difficult to snap a shot of a plane flying when one has first to grab one’s iPhone off the table and turn it on. But here’s my best attempt at showing you the view I am seeing now. Except that that plane is long gone.

Preparing for the trip of a lifetime to northern Uganda

My name is Deborah Chatterton and I work for Vancity, a financial co-operative and one of the largest credit unions in Canada, as a communications consultant. In July 2012, I received a notice from the Canadian Co-operative Association that, for the first time ever, it was building a communications team to tour an international development project. I competed for and won a spot on the team, which includes seven other communicators from Canadian co-ops.

The day after tomorrow we’ll be leaving Canada, en route to Entebbe. Our two-week journey will take us across northern Uganda, where we’ll meet farmers and other members of the Integrated Finance and Agriculture project. We’ll learn how membership in this co-op has affected their livelihood, and upon our return we’ll each communicate their stories 10 times. I’ll be blogging daily if Internet connections exist in the little towns I’ll be visiting.

A native of Montreal, QC, I’ve been fortunate to live and work in five cities, including Manchester, UK. I’ve travelled across Canada and the US, and I’ve been to Mexico, Jamaica, the UK and France. I’ve done some adventure-based travelling, including winter camping in sub-zero temperatures. But I’ll be the first to admit that this trip is unlike any I’ve ever taken, and I’m very excited, and a little nervous.

To prepare, I’ve done a lot of shopping and have bought everything from the clothes I’ll wear in Africa, (long skirts, which I never wear at home), to an international power converter and bug spray that includes DEET. I’ve also had five shots (we’ll, six actually – but one is the flu shot because I’ll be facing a Canadian winter when I return). I’ve also taken two oral vaccinations and will begin a third, the malaria vaccination, tomorrow. I’m as prepared as I think I can be for something that is completely outside of my experience.

I look forward to meeting my fellow travellers, and to changing the picture on the header of this blog to one from Uganda. The current picture (see below) of the waterfront and Science World is what I see outside my office building on False Creek in Vancouver, BC. I put it there to represent what I’ll be leaving behind on Wednesday.

Wish us luck!

Nighttime view of False Creek, Vancouver, BC

Nighttime view of False Creek, Vancouver, BC