I’m having a staring contest with a lizard. He’s doing his best to keep an eye on me without leaving the cover of a little gap in the roofing next door. It’s the height of the second wet season here in Uganda. Drier than the first wet season, they say. I’ve only been here for a few days, but the skies seem to threaten rain more than they produce it. It’s pouring right now, though. And this lizard doesn’t seem to like it very much.
During the fall of my senior year at Harvard, most of my friends were applying to jobs or graduate school. I wasn’t. Some people seemed to have a very clear picture of their future. I didn’t. I was studying chemistry, and the thought of continuing to a Ph.D. program in that field was appealing, but it did not seem right for an immediate next step. I had other things on my mind, other interests I did not want to neglect.
At some point, I came across an announcement for postgraduate fellowships offered through the university. These programs offered graduating seniors a chance to propose a year of meaningful travel—an experience that would hopefully benefit both the individual and the global community. So, early during my senior spring, I crafted a proposal that involved traveling to see the great apes of the world: gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans. This plan would allow me to pursue my lifelong interest and passion for the nature and environment, to immerse myself some incredible places around the globe, and to witness the beauty and magnificence of these exotic, yet familiar animals. It would also give me an opportunity to share both the wonder and tragedy associated with these endangered species through writing and photography.
That spring proved to be more turbulent than I ever could have imagined, and I was left with developing depression and anxiety on top of my existing uncertainty about my goals and future career. I grasped at any hint of excitement or hope that should abound as one finishes college. Yet, I found little that helped me. That is until early May, when I was awarded a fellowship—an opportunity to pursue the dream of exploring the jungles of Africa and Indonesia that had been running through my head for so long. That helped.
So here I am, a few days into the first leg of my journey, sitting in a hostel in Kampala waiting out the downpour with my lizard friend. I’ll be here (in the city, I mean) for a little while, meeting with researchers and the Uganda Wildlife Authority. If all goes well, I will next find myself in western Uganda in the mountains of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. This incredible national park is home to over 400 Mountain Gorillas, a subspecies of the Eastern Gorilla with fewer than 1,000 individuals remaining in the wild. The park is also home to an incredible diversity of plants, birds, and other wildlife. I will be living in my own little heaven, essentially.
As I continue my travels and adventures here in Uganda and around the world, I hope to update this blog with words and photos as I can, so be sure to check back every once in a while!