No matter how lovely a people and experience in another country, it is inevitable that something will be distasteful to the senses. Sometimes there are multiple causes of discomfort that occur simultaneously and with abandon.
One such scenario is the 45-60 minute daily drive from my host family's house in the northern part of Kampala to the rallying point in the center of the city. Without fail, the morning begins with a traffic jam in the blazing sun. This might be easily stomached were it not for the open windows and clouds of exhaust fumes. Though cars are equipped with air conditioners, and even a functioning one in my host mother's car, Ugandans have clearly grown accustomed to the smell. My sinuses and stinging eyes, however, have not! I've told my host siblings that at some point during my stay I will very likely open my mouth and they will see a plume of smoke rise into the air. I believe that it actually makes me high (and not in a good way). If only I could conceive of a way to rinse out my lungs and sinuses each night.
The roads, I suppose, warrant their own paragraph. The traffic is truly laughable in its unruliness, though not unlike many other countries I've visited. In between chaotic streams of cars ("lanes" would be an exaggeration), "bodabodas" (motorcycles) dart in and out of traffic carrying between one and five people each. The traffic jams drive many Kampalans to take short-cuts on the side roads, where aren't really short-cuts at all, and would be more aptly described as trails. With ruts half the depth of the tires, it takes a four-wheel drive and a bold driver to navigate these routes, which are more the norm than the exception. I'm told that the city was not planned with these roads in mind, so people build and landscape into space that would be better served by drainage systems. I'm certain, though, that I've developed abdominal strength as a passenger these past few weeks. No seat belts and at least 2-3 hours of riding team each day gets results. But I wouldn't advise it as a sustainable workout plan.
The challenges for the mind on a trip like this generally regard the day-to-day struggles of others. Forget the ants in the bathtub and the bucket baths and the chickens in the next room. I'm talking about things like the effects of decades of war and HIV/AIDS. It's common to meet people who are paying school fees for as many as 15 children, of which maybe a few are their own. Hearing story after story about needs can wear on a person, but listening to stories and needs is my job, so I'm more struck by what people are able to achieve despite the obstacles. That is what is really amazing.