guest blogger: Yi Yi Yeap 'Day 1: I'm Alive!'

Quick Intro

My name is Yi Yi Yeap. I was born in Malaysia but moved to Australia when I was 7 and have lived there ever since. It is currently the summer between my sophomore (2nd) and junior (3rd) year at New York University Abu Dhabi, where I am double majoring in Film and New Media, and Social Research and Public Policy. (Abu Dhabi is the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, which shares borders with Oman and Saudi Arabia.)

This internship opportunity was a godsend for me as it was a way for me to combine my two academic interests, while being able to travel and explore a new culture! I will be taking photos, documenting some videos and writing some blog posts about Acacia Avenue Designs, Kampala and Uganda, so keep your eyes peeled on this website for daily (or whenever I have Internet) updates.

Day 1: I’m Alive!

Despite my efforts to be organised and ready to fly to Uganda, I was still a mess before my 8:30am flight. Everything that was on my pre-departure to do list had not been done and I realised as I sat on the plane that I would be arriving in Entebbe without a toothbrush, a visa or a single Ugandan shilling in my bag (not that 1 shilling would’ve gotten me anywhere). Well. This was going to be interesting.

Although the plane arrived in Entebbe at 12:45pm, I didn’t end up leaving the airport until around 2pm. At the immigration section of the airport, I was at a complete loss. There appeared to be three queues and people were moving from queue to queue, confusing me even more. I started lining up in one, only to be told when I reached the front of the queue that I was in the wrong one and had to go to the back of the other one. By this time, another flight had landed, bringing with it a lot more people, ie. an even longer queue than I had just been in. By the time I was standing in front of the immigration counter, I was parched and ready to collapse. Thankfully, getting the visa was very fast and I was able to speed my way to baggage claim and out the airport towards the orange sign held by Sarah, the country director of the NGO that I would be working and staying with, that said, “Yi Yi, Welcome to Uganda!”

The car ride from Entebbe to Sarah’s house in Kampala took about an hour, but the perks of riding shotgun meant that I could see everything: the street stores, the children running across the road, and the never-ending greenery that was severely lacking in Abu Dhabi. The trees remind me of my hometown Kota Bharu in Malaysia. I’m liking this place already.

Sarah warned me to keep my laptop away from the open car window, saying that her friend had had her phone snatched off her while she had been talking on it, as she was driving. That worried me a little because I am constantly on my phone, all day everyday. Snapchatting, instagraming, facebooking, documenting my life for a non-existent audience. This would also make my work of photographing and videoing with a DSLR camera slightly more difficult than I had anticipated. But I knew that this internship would be a challenge when I signed up for it; I was getting first hand experience in a job that I envisioned doing in the future. If this doesn’t work out, at least I found out while I was still in college.

2000 shillings for a Coke at the gas station. So that’s like $2 right? It’s going to take some time for me to get used to the exchange rate. To this day, I still don’t have a grasp on the UAE dirhams, despite having lived in Abu Dhabi for 2 years. It would require a miracle for me to grasp the Ugandan shilling in 3 weeks.

Bodas. I love bodas. In reality they are motorcycles that are used as a taxi service of sorts - if you need to be somewhere in a hurry or don’t have any bags on you. (The taxi services here are big vans that fit 7 or so people and so it usually takes longer to get to your destination as you may have to wait for other people to get dropped off first.) For me, they were a blast to the past, as I recalled my childhood days of being driven to school in a motorcycle back in Malaysia. Fun fact of the day: bodas got their name from when people were being driven across the Kenyan and Ugandan border by motorcycles, and the drivers would say “border to border” which was heard by ex-pats supposedly as “bodas bodas.” This misunderstanding led to the word being eventually used by locals themselves as the name for the motorcycle service. We took a boda to the restaurant that we would be having dinner and the quick ride was exhilarating. The number of times that I thought we were going to crash into a car or another boda, or worse a person, was numerous, but the boda driver knew what he was doing and got us to the restaurant in one piece.

I survived my first day in Uganda! 1 down. 23 more to go. If the rest of my time here are half as thrilling as my day was today, I think I’m going to have a lot of fun these 3 weeks.

Until next time (tomorrow hopefully!),

Yi Yi