Uganda Healthcare Expedition Part V

I’ve been spending this weekend back home in London. Unfortunately, it didn’t start off quite so smoothly…

I developed a bout of conjunctivitis towards the end of the week, and was slowly recovering from that. It was also on the Friday when I headed to London, that I heard about the terrorist incident at Parsons Green earlier that morning. People were naturally more cautious about their travels and that included me. What made things more difficult, was telling my family that I was going to the Uganda-UK convention in central London the next day. They were NOT happy.

While I was brainstorming on the train, and trying to think of what I would like to achieve from the convention, I received a certain-toned phone call from the family, asking about the sort of convention I was attending.

Then that classic saying came along:

“We’ll talk about this when you get home”.

No, not an unfamiliar saying. But if anything, it probably fired up my drive more so. Listening to some of my favourite movie themes (yes, this includes How To Train Your Dragon), I was even more focused in my planning for the convention!

I tried to think why it is that parents don’t want us to do certain things. Do they think differently from us? Do they feel like they are losing us? Are they worried that we could fail? Maybe all those things. Or maybe, we’re supposed to be “settling”.

I don’t think such a thing as “settling” exists. To settle and accept things as they are, almost means giving up on life. I actually think that’s somewhat disrespectful to life itself. To strive, however and whatever you decide to pursue, means to live life to the fullest. If you choose to be of service to others, why shouldn’t you? Anything which increases your options is a good decision. If you do the same actions, you’ll get that same results. If you do different actions, you’ll have a different life.

So I went.

After an early morning wake up (6.45am on a Saturday morning is early for me!), I got ready and headed out. The convention itself was quite easy to get to, only a few stops on the underground and just a couple on the railway. Once I got there I signed in, was given my pass and waited around…unfortunately for a long time! It turned out that not only I had gotten there ridiculously early (I thought 9am was quite decent!), but they were running very late. The hall where the convention was being held at was divided into two parts. The front consisted of the stage, the tables at the front and the stand alone seats at the back. Behind were all the exhibition stands. The people who attended were spread across the two parts, though the exhibition area was naturally much louder! Before you realise people approach you, and you can’t help but network as well-exchanging contact details and dishing out calling cards (I was probably one of the few who DIDN’T have one, I don’t think your NHS smart card quite qualifies!).

Sneaky photo before the crowds came

Before the rest of the people arrived 

The chairman opened up the convention with a saying I thought was clever, in the context of us being allowed to use our phones to take pictures!

“Life worth living is one worth recording”.

The convention commenced with the singing of the Ugandan National Anthem. This was soon followed by various speeches given by many distinguished invited guests-such as the Ugandan High commissioner to the UK, and the Vice President of Uganda, Edward Ssekandi.

Vice President of Uganda Edward Ssekandi giving his speech 

One of the presentations which interested me more so, was delivered to us by Dr Ian Clarke-a physician, philanthropist, entrepreneur and the chairman of the International Medical Group. I found his work inspiring, particularly how he used agriculture from his roots to keep his medical work sustainable. I adored his motto:

“Sustainable Development with Social Impact”

I was very fortunate to have a face to face meeting with him, which was just as well as I missed a part of his presentation (because it was during his presentation that we had to register to meet with a specific speaker…funny that!).

The meeting itself was a delight! I had my notebook with my questions written and my pen at the ready, to write haste his answers and advice. However I soon as I sat down, I didn’t even look at my notebook properly. It didn’t seem all that appropriate. I asked just one question, and the rest of the time we just chatted away, completely informal and relaxed. He was taken aback that I was a doctor, as I think he thought like many others, I was seeking for an investment! It was almost like we were uni friends, getting to know each other and comparing notes about medicine and life. I felt absolutely honoured that we spent the length of time we had talking. To me he was like a celebrity, and it was probably my highlight of the convention!

After leaving the meeting room, I walked through a very crowded hallway where out of nowhere, a calling card flung across, hit my face by accident and landed on the floor. I picked it up and didn’t think much of it when a gentleman said:

“I’m really sorry, did that hit your eye?!”

“No no it didn’t, not to worry”

“Oh then you can have it!”

Suddenly there was a loud uproar of laughter and I couldn’t help but join in. But it wasn’t until I left the hallway, that I realised who the card belonged to-the Ugandan High Commissioner!

After a cup of tea and a croissant for lunch (the queue for lunch was incredibly long and I didn’t have the stomach to wait), I managed to speak with some other people in the crowds, before taking my seat at the table. The lecture after lunch was provided by a Ugandan Physician, which captivated me yet again. She first talked about the Diaspora in Uganda. Ignorant as I am at things, I had to look this up. She then spoke about how the healthcare system there is “corrupt and broken down”, and that a lot of work still needed doing. This was followed with a story, one which almost brought me to tears…

A senior physician at her hospital became unwell and needed a ventilator. Unfortunately the ventilator broke down and he was deteriorating. “Hospital X” where he was staying would not let him go to “Hospital Y” to receive treatment via their working ventilator, until he and his family paid the fees. This was in the hundred thousand region and despite appealing to the administration, they would not let him go. “The fees were coming in but his health was getting worse”.

Once the payment was made to Hospital X, Hospital Y refused to take him in. This was because he now needed to pay for the ambulance, and this was even more expensive (in the millions region). SOMEHOW they managed to get this payment sorted and thankfully, he was transferred across. Maybe it was the way she told us this story (which is far better than how I am saying it here), but this sorry horrified me and I was heartbroken.

After a couple more speeches I decided to call it a day. I had taken more than enough knowledge and insight than I could have hoped for and decided to head back, to spend the rest of the day with the family.

My trinkets from the day ūüôā You could only speak with the guest speakers if you applied for a VIP pass-so worth it! 

Attending this convention only reinforced what I want to do with my life. There are many messages which I took home with me, but one of my favourites still is this one, which was mentioned by the Ugandan physician. It couldn’t be put more simply:

“It was just something different and that’s what I chose to do”

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Uganda Healthcare Expedition Part IV

After a fun couple of days of vegetarian home cooking (burgers and lasagne!), I had a few days off work and so set off to London. I was a little lazy at home but at the same time, hung out in the high street and enjoyed the summer sales!

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The view from the top floor of the bus, the best seat in my opinion!

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My sales items, totaling £62.75

It was also a good opportunity to meet up with a family friend, one who I’ve known for almost 25 years.

It was on the day that I met up with her, that I had an appointment with the dental hygienist in the morning. Just a typical appointment which I had booked the day before…or was it?

Everything was going pretty normal. My teeth were being inspected and the dental hygienist was doing a ‘deep clean’ on them, when his phone rang and he answered accordingly.

‘Oh I’m very sorry but I had to take the phone call’

‘That’s ok’ I replied.

‘Yeah it’s from Uganda’

‘Oh really?’

It was at this point that my voice changed to one of excitement. Of course I let him finish off the session, and then we talked about all-things-Uganda. We spoke about my trip there last year, his origins there and what we were both hoping to do. I told him about what I was setting up and interestingly, he told me about his plans to improve the dental hygiene there. We exchanged contact details and I left soon after. The very next day, I received an email from him.

He alerted me of the Uganda-UK Investment Convention which is scheduled for this year. I don’t know if I would have even be aware of it, if it wasn’t for the dental hygienist! Did I sign up for it? Well of course I did. I considered it a sign that he was there! Interestingly, I was contacted by two key organisations soon after-The Ministry of Health in Uganda that day, and the RCOG the next day.

So yes, things are still going. My next steps are:

  • Look into fundraising and obtaining the medical equipment.
  • Once this is done, we can set up the services for the cervical cancer screening programme and look into keeping it sustainable.
  • Make plans to go to Uganda towards the beginning of next year.

I wanted to end this post by sharing a Youtube link, because of the impact it has on me every time I watch it. I find it very inspirational, focusing the importance of creating change and making a difference in people’s lives. This is what I want to do.

Gary Vaynerchuk in Ghana, a country I have been to previously and love dearly. The ending of this vlog almost always gets to me. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did ūüôā

Live Your Life

As I head back to Leeds on the train again, I reflect on how I spent the last few days in my home city, London. I use train journeys as a golden opportunity to recollect the good memories we made at home. It’s always something I can come back to.

I hadn’t been at home in just over two months, and hadn’t seen my family since I did my exam. It was nice to actually spend a few days with them, not just a weekend.¬†In addition to getting a hair cut, I took the opportunity to meet my cousins. A couple came over to see us and I met up with a close one in the city.

I always enjoy going to central London, and this trip was no different. I love the fact that it’s literally a 30 minute trip on the Underground to get there. I met my cousin at around 5pm in London Bridge, at a fresh Italian Pasta restaurant called Padella. Despite the early dinner and neither of us being particularly hungry, we somehow managed to consume 3 pasta dishes, a chocolate torte and a bottle of Prosecco between us! I hadn’t seen her since Christmas, so there was a lot of catching up to do.

After having our meal, we walked across the city centre. Starting at Borough Market, we made our way along the River Thames and passed many London landmarks-Shakespeare’s Globe, the Royal National Theatre, London television centre, the London Eye, Sea life London Aquarium, Dungeons and Dragons, skateboarding sites, the list was endless. Streaks of sunlight were seeping through the clouds still, yet nobody was cold. Everybody looked happy and was in a good mood. We said our goodbyes on London Bridge at around 8.30pm and we went home our separate ways. My understanding is that the London terrorist attacks took place two hours later.

The following morning, after waking up to numerous Whatsapp messages to check people were safe, I went to a barbeque my sister was organising for me and my parents. We were joined by one of my old family friends who I hadn’t seen in almost a year, and her American cousin who I briefly met at my sister’s wedding. I won’t lie, I thought I had felt a little awkwardness between us, maybe because I hadn’t seen her in a long time or maybe because they were guests. However I think it settled…my sister showed us wedding videos (some of them I knew I’d seen before) and we chatted again like old times.

After the barbeque, we drove to my friend’s house where she was staying with her parents, whilst she was back in England. Her house always reminded me of happy childhood memories and the days we used to hang out there. Her cousin was a medical student and talked about the medical school system. He also invited me to come to America. Yay! My first American friend! It was even more lovely seeing her parents again. Her father is a retired GP and I had the utmost respect for him. He had a very good work ethic which my mother always talked about when I was younger, and I’d like to think ¬†that he was proud of me. Hilariously he exclaimed, “ahh Chitra, you look like a 10 year old!”, and we had an energetic conversation. We talked about the hospitals I worked in and he was happy that I can do LPs, (lumbar punctures), stating “yes, you’re a doctor”.

I definitely enjoyed my time in London, I always do. I love trying to make time to see old friends and family, because I want to be reminded of my roots when I tend to forget them. This trip back to London will probably stick to me more, because of what happened in London Bridge. Last time I met up with my cousin was around Christmas time last year. We met up later in the evening and I came home later. What if we decided to meet up at a similar time this year? It’s almost terrifying to think that, and I did lay awake that night thinking about what could have happened.

My mum mentioned that I should stop going to central London often (as if I go often!), and brought up many a time, how I encouraged her to take trips there that very evening, before we heard the news. But really, should something like this stop us from carrying on with normal life? According to her, it almost felt like she believed that. Yes maybe I’ll be a little cautious, but I won’t be living in fear. We have a life to live and we should live it.

What to wear, what to wear!

Over the past few weeks, I feel like I’ve been making more of an effort to dress up nicer. I thought to myself…why have I become influenced to do so?

I think one reason is that I have a little more time to myself. Somehow I make the time to dress better, though I wouldn’t describe myself as spending hours on it, that ain’t my style. I’ve noticed that on the days I put more effort, they just turn out better. This is because of my thought of that day:

‘Even if I have a bad day today, at least I looked good’

I’ve started to understand a sense¬†of style I’d like to develop. I did some research into outfits, by mainly looking at how other women dress, and seeing if their clothes appeal to me. Then I try to imagine if their style suits me.¬†I admit I don’t buy a lot of clothes often, actually rarely, maybe once in a few months. So when I do go shopping, I try to buy items which could resemble an outfit, and mix and match with some other clothes I have.

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Here’s one example of a style I like. Though I’m 5 ft 2 inches tall, these skinny jeans do make me look taller. I ¬†have also learnt that for shorties like me, boots & a short skirt¬†work well!

So that’s clothes sorted..what’s next?

Let’s go onto make up.

To be honest, I haven’t purchased much make up in the past few weeks, because I’m happy with what I’m using currently. My make up range is rather limited: moisturiser (if you can call that make up), eye liner and lipstick. Eye liner is a must. I rarely leave the house without it on. Because I usually wear glasses, I need something to bring out my eyes more. I’m also lucky to receive nice compliments about my eyes from others (my family always say I get them from my mum), so I do like to flaunt them a little. I went through a ‘lipstick phase’ a few months ago (not weeks), following my love of the American hard rock group Halestorm. I admire the lipstick shades of the lead singer Lzzy Hale, and I think that because she’s so iconic, I was further influenced to purchase some lipsticks of my own. I went for the MAC lipsticks: ‘Russian Rouge’¬†and ‘Mehr’.¬†

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It was this music video, ‘Familiar Taste of Poison’ that got to¬†me. It’s rather ironic how I was influenced to buy the lipsticks, considering the¬†storyline!

Shall we move onto hair?

A couple of things spring to mind. I recently invested in a clipless hair curling wand from Aria Beauty. I’ll be honest, this wasn’t planned. We were walking down the mall in the city centre, when a friendly Romanian lady approached us and asked if I wanted ‘something done’. I didn’t even know what it was at the time, she was talking very fast!

‘Come with me, I’ll do something for free! You won’t regret it, it’s free!’

I figured that whatever product she was selling wasn’t obviously free. She was however providing a free service of some sort. I just looked at my boyfriend who was next to me. She was really nice, and I found it hard to say no. ¬†The curling wand was on discount and, well I’ve never had curly hair before.¬†Her sales tactics worked.

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  End result!

Not only was I loving the new curls, but I now knew how to curl my hair, thanks to the saleswoman. Over the past few weeks, I also fantasised about highlights. These ranged in many colours: from blue (yes blue), to purple, to ‘copper red’. Having spent the past few days in London, I decided to make an appointment with the hair dressers in my home town. Whenever I get a hair cut, I like sort it out at home (even if it rains almost every time!). ¬†Having said that though, ¬†I haven’t had a haircut in almost two years, despite coming back to London several times, terrible!

In addition to getting a basic trim (I wasn’t looking into getting layers like I have done before), we discussed highlights. I learned that in order to get blues and purples, you need to¬†bleach¬†your hair. No, I didn’t know this. I don’t think it’s supposed to be that bad (I need to do more research), but that term just horrified me! We then talked about copper red as an alternative and as a first timer, I nervously accepted this treatment. Despite some variation in my hair colour, it unfortunately didn’t fully stick, just because my hair is apparently too dark for it. The only way to get this colour highlight was to still bleach my hair. I’ll be honest I wasn’t¬†that desperate, so we just stuck to the classic wash, cut and blow dry. No matter, lesson learnt.

Interestingly, it was my boyfriend who mentioned about getting hair extensions. I mean, if I was still interested in getting highlights, why don’t I try this? It’s quick and easy, and you can still keep your natural black hair. Yes I’ll be looking into this.

Last thing I promise! Nails.

Having migrated out of hospital posts, the dress code now tends to be less strict in the community. This gives me the perfect opportunity to have pretty nails! I had a select number of colours. This includes your standard classic red nail polish, your black one, and your gold and silver ones. The top coat nail polish is a must for that glossy shine…and if I’m not mistaken I think I can use my one as a base coat.¬†Though I had a few others, I wanted to expand my range. I looked online and literally google searched ‘pretty nails’, to find a variety of colours and designs.

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Some of the more ‘simpler’ designs, yet very pretty. I take no credit for this google search image!

Following my research, I went to Superdrug and purchased some more nail polish of various colours, including some rather bold choices. This came to about ¬£15 for 6 bottles, roughly equating to ¬£2.50 per bottle. Maybe pricey, but considering that they will last me a long time, and¬†I can now create a variety of designs, I think the price is right. (I also got more points to my Superdrug points card, always a bonus). Though I’m aware of the ‘silver accent nail’ , I hadn’t realised the importance of having white nail polish, which you can use to decorate your already painted nails! Yes this may seem incredibly simple, but it wasn’t something I had thought of, so I also bought some nail designers.

Is this another phase I’m going through? Yeah maybe. I don’t expect to spend hours on my nails but I think once in a while, its nice to pay attention to these.

Well I think I’ve finally come to the end! Do I usually blog about beauty products? Well no, never. This may in fact be my first time. I felt like writing about something a little different this time, even though this is also based on personal experiences. Remember, these changes were over a few weeks, and definitely not one after another.¬†My beliefs have probably changed. I now believe that I should be putting more effort into how I dress. It’s how you present yourself to other people. I was narrow-minded and used to think that it was shallow to want to dress up better. I’ve realised now however, that wanting to look nice is normal.

A little addendum from the middle of June…

I decided to add this here, as I believe it’s one of the few times where I partook in something a little different. I wanted to share this, to remind myself to try and do things I’ve never done before, ¬†no matter how big or small!

I made a very last minute decision to head home to London for that weekend. I knew it was for a short time and hence, didn’t expect to do that much. After a lie in on Saturday, I went to Tooting with my mother to help with some errands. I hadn’t been there in what felt like forever, and as always, I was reminded of my childhood again. This weekend happened to be that of the Eid celebrations. And because of that, there were many, and I mean MANY Mehndi stations along the high street…how could I not have a go?

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