Northern Uganda

here are some answers to questions that one might have before traveling across an ocean to Pader, Northern Uganda. 


Remember, this  is my personal take from living in Uganda since August, 2009, and every person you talk with will have a different take and perspective.  Because there are a few people coming quite soon, I wanted to get this up and going but will update and revise it continually.  If you have questions or want clarifications, leave a comment and I’ll respond as soon as I can 🙂

Think Before You Leap

 Books to Read & Media to See

 Daily Expectations




Photography with Dignity

 Religious Services

 Luo Language

Staying Healthy



Anti Malarial Prophylaxis Drugs

Malaria, The Disease

Malaria in Uganda

Chronic Illness


Glasses and Contact Lenses

Life in Podunk Pader

Living Arrangements

Safe Drinking Water

Food in the Frigid North

International Communication



Think Before You Leap

Books to Read & Media to See

If you read a book or two about the situation in the North, you grasp a small idea of what people here have been through. 

Northern Uganda specific–

First Kill Your Family-Child Soldiers of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistence Army  by Peter Eichstaedt

Trial Justice: The International Criminal Court and the Lord’s Resistance Army by Tim Allen

Living with Bad Surroundings: War, History, and Everyday Moments in Northern Uganda (The

Cultures and Practice of Violence) by Sverker Finnström

Tall Grass. Stories of Suffering and Peace in Northern Uganda by Carlos Rodríquez Soto

Aboke Girls- Children Abducted in Northern Uganda by Els De Temmerman

Girl Soldier: A Story of Hope for Northern Uganda’s Children by Faith McDonnell and Grace Akallo

Alice Lakwena & Holy Spirits: War in Northern Uganda 1986-97 by Heike Behrend

 For those volunteering overseas for the first time-

Foreign to Familiar: A Guide to Understanding Hot – And Cold – Climate Cultures by Sarah A. Lanier

Movies about Northern Uganda-

War Dance (2007)

Invisible Children 

Daily Expectations

After traveling to an unknown land, the first couple of weeks are exciting as we discover and take in the new foods, smells, environment, people, and culture.  We are full of vigor as we see the opportunities at hand.  The degree of what we get out of our experience here and what we are able to accomplish will largely depend on our ability to be self motivated, tolerate ambiguity, open minded, willing to learn from others and also from being open to others.

 It is rare to have a packed fixed daily schedule and there may seem to be a lot of down time where you don’t feel “productive”.  How we spend our time and what we do with it are just a couple of differences between tribal vs urban cultures, relationship based vs task oriented based cultures.  Both types are a blessing and a curse and it’s up to us to keep a positive attitude for the most part.

There are a few daily activities that are somewhat reliable:

8am- Workday begins

10am- Breakfast tea

1pm-2pm- Lunch at the organization, in the community at a restaurant, or in the field

5pm- End of the work day

Depending on what activities you are involved with will decide what you do in between those times.  You could be playing games with children in a daycare, involved in sports with students, be out in the field completing assessments.  It is best that you contact your organization to see what they have going on and to also share with them your experience and ideas before you come to try to get things going as soon as you can after you arrive. 

As for time outside of work, getting involved within the community is encouraged.  Daily, soccer is played in the middle of town or international teams can be watched on TV at a restaurant.  Churches hold weekly Bible Studies.  Occasionally there are celebrations with traditional dancing and music.  Gathering with others for dinner at someone’s house or at a restaurant happens often.  Depending on whether you get your energy from others or by yourself and are exhausted after a day’s work, will decide your evening activities.  Sometimes reading a good book while drinking tea on a cold rainy night or laughing while watching a funny movie on your laptop helps rejuvenate after a long day.

Many locals go back to their families in the villages or to larger towns for the weekends.  Close by places to visit include Gulu, Lira, and Kitgum and are about an hour and a half to 3 hours away.  Food is limited in Pader Town, so people tend to stock up before traveling back.  If you go to the big city of the north, Gulu, you can find Ethiopian, Indian, more westernized restaurants, coffee shops, internet cafe, African craft shops, more variety in fabric and better tailors, and even a pool.  Pader has none of these so the occasional retreat is brilliant.  

If you are interested in the more touristy activities, a close by spot is Murchison Falls which is said to be possibly the best place to go on a safari in Uganda.  Also, for those who like to hike, Kolongo Hill has a great view of the local surroundings.  For places that take a day or longer to reach, there are the Kasese Islands, Mount Elgon, rafting the N, bungee jumping, rhino sanctuary, chimpanzee island, hippo resorts, Gorilla tracking, and other activities.  Refer to Lonely Planet Uganda or search online for more ideas.



Participate in as many opportunities available.  By being out in the community and being relational, we gain a broader understanding of the culture, the issues at hand, beauty of the people, and get an experience unlike the ones read in a book.  Discussion times where we can ask questions and discuss together openly, and your willingness to self disclose frustrations, fears, hopes and successes will help you process your time here. 



It’s amazing how little is needed to survive.  The majority of people we work with live in simple huts or single rooms for an entire family.  While here, we encourage simplifying by not letting material possessions and appearances hinder your experience or the people we work with.  Looking “smart”, or looking very well dressed, is important in this culture but being flashy can intimidate, put off, or increase the amount of times “you give me my money” is demanded by children and adults alike.  Every foreigner is seen as rich, and compared to the majority of people in Africa, we are.  The fact that we are able to somehow get a plane ticket to fly to Africa simply implies that. 

When buying items to take back to friends and family, it is best not to show them off or to tell how much the item was for it cements the thought “white people are rich and should give money” mentality.  People will be welcoming for various reasons including out of respect, the desire to have a token white friend, they see you as their way out, or maybe they just want a genuine friendship— being real and making an effort to leave the high class balcony to be amongst them on the ground level will make a huge difference in the authenticity of your experience and relationships here.



Pader Town Council was formerly an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp during insurgency times.  Families were forced from their spread out ancestral villages to live in unsanitary, crowded, and moral degrading conditions for fear of their lives.  People weren’t allowed to till their fields and relied solely on outside sources for survival. 

A negative outcome from the generous charity from the outside world is extreme dependency and destroyed identity.  Instead of buying needed household items, they expect “white people” handouts like the last 20 or so years.  The need here is massive and there is no quick solution.

 Shifting from quick relief hand outs to long-lasting sustainable development includes being careful and conscious about to whom and what we are giving out without any accountability.  Although giving kids a sweet while walking along a dirt path may seem harmless, it instills behaviors of always requesting free stuff from visitors and can further encourage dependency issues on foreign aid.  For someone who is here a day or two, they don’t see this.  It is the foreigners who are here day after day, month after month, and possibly years that are left with the mess made by uninformed visitors.

Especially when dealing with youth and adults, be extremely careful when a hand out for money is asked. Rather than a quick handover to what seems like nothing in your Western eyes, build a relationship with the person, get the full description of the situation, speak to a trusted Ugandan for the correct procedure, request school fee documents or any information that will prove it is true, and then take steps of action. 

People know how to use pretty words that will make them sound as if they are in dire need, but this isn’t always the case.  Rather than pay 200 shillings, .10 USD, to participate in making reusable pads which will save them 3000 every month from purchasing feminine products from the shop, they will say they don’t have it because they are so used to getting things for free.  They will say you promised them something when you did nothing of the sort.  If you have never been here before, they might say “your friend” promised them something which maybe someone in the past did or maybe they are making it up to see if you will fold.

Although we are here to help, sometimes the best thing we can do for an individual is to help them help themselves as cliché as it may seem.  We cannot have a savior mentality and expect that to truly benefit the communities we serve.  We are here because we want to see people flourish and succeed and must keep level headed in doing so.  At the end of the day, this is a personal decision that you will have to make when faced with it here.


Photography with Dignity

While in Uganda, we see and experience things that we will not want to forget. Once back home, going through photos helps us remember the beauty and struggles of the places we’ve been.  However, we must be aware that there is a high potential for offensiveness when taking pictures.  Another possibility is that they either expect a payment for the photo or for you to develop it and give them a copy.  We will experience many things that are different from our normal Western lives and it is natural to want to remember and share with friends and family back home.  However, this should not be done at the expense of others’ dignity. 

A rule of thumb is: When you want to take a picture of something or someone, ask yourself, “Would I want someone else taking this picture of me or of my things?” Even if the answer is “Yes,” there will be times when it is still inappropriate to take pictures.

Living life through the lens of a camera will hinder your experience.  There is a time where photography is appropriate and there are many times where it is not.  It might be wise to keep the cameras close by but not trigger happy when dealing with photos of people until the last couple of days of your stay. 

Photos will mean so much more after you have built relationships with the people in them.   As you build relationships, you will become sensitive to what is and is not “tasteful.”  Please don’t treat children, or anyone here, as if an exhibit in a zoo where photos are taken at will.  Yes, their stories may be intense, but they are not just a story—they are human beings and deserve our respect.


Religious Services

It is your choice on whether or not to attend church while here.  Victory Outreach, Faith Missions, Emmanuel International, and the Catholic church all have English services which are usually held around 8am before services in Luo.  Even if you aren’t religious, church can be a great way to get involved in the community and to meet others.


Luo Language

Luckily, the official language of Uganda is English and makes it easier for Westerners to get by.  In larger towns and trading centers, it is  surprising how fluent and easy it can be to communicate.  It becomes troublesome out in the field and where the education levels are lower.  Uganda has 43 official languages so even within the Ugandan population, people born and raised in other parts of the country rely on English when they travel to the north. 

Although it is impossible to master a language in a couple of months, it is possible to learn the basic greetings and departure sayings. With a simple “Kop ango?” meaning “whats the news”, you will amaze people with how “quickly” you are learning their language. Also, it displays an appreciation for the culture and helps break attitudes of western arrogance. If nothing else, seeing people smile after a greeting is worth taking the time to learn a few key phrases.  Here are a few to get you started and contact me for a more comprehensive list.

What’s the word?   Kop ango?                       No news.   Kop pe.

How are you?   Itye nining?                         I’m good.   Atye maber.

Are you doing well?   Itye maber?             I’m so so.   Atye maber ber.

What is your name?   Nyingo?                     My name is ___.   An nyinga ____.

And you?   In kono?                                          How are all of you?   Wutye Maber?

Where are you from?   I aa ki kwene?      I am from ___ in ___.   A aa kwe ___ i ___.

Where are you going?   Icito kwene?      I’m going home.   Acito gang.

Thanks!   Apwoyo!                                           Safe journey!   Wot maber!

We shall see again.   Pud wanen.              Allow me to go.   Wek achiri.

How much?   Shilling adi?                         They call it what?   Ki lwongo ni ngo?

They call it what?   Angeyo pe.                 I don’t understand.   Pe ani ang.

How do I say ___?   Iwaco ___ nining? 


Staying Healthy


As soon as you decide to go overseas you should start thinking about what vaccinations you need.   As a foreigner, who has lived all your life in a country with good hygiene and sanitation you will not have any immunity to many diseases epidemic, where as local people will have developed some immunity from exposure. 

Vaccinations can be very expensive but the money you spend on getting your vaccinations can save you a lot of pain, sickness, and money in the long run so it is quite worth it.  To possibly pay less, check with the local County Nurse to see if they offer any of the vaccinations— Before travelling to India, the nurse practitioner I had been seeing signed me up for a long list of vaccines which were going to cost roughly $500 USD.  I went to the County Nurse, who then looked everything up online, decided which ones I actually needed out of the long list, gave me a yellow travelers book as well as filled it with the new vaccines she had just given, and saved me about $300 USD in the long run. 

Vaccinations: Hepatitis A Recommended for all travelers
Typhoid Recommended for all travelers
Yellow fever Recommended for all travelers. Required for travelers arriving from a yellow-fever-infected area in Africa or the Americas.
Polio One-time booster recommended for any adult traveler who completed the childhood series but never had polio vaccine as an adult
Meningococcus Recommended for all travelers to northern Uganda
Hepatitis B Recommended for all travelers
Rabies For travelers spending a lot of time outdoors, or at high risk for animal bites, or involved in any activities that might bring them into direct contact with bats
Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) Two doses recommended for all travelers born after 1956, if not previously given
Tetanus-diphtheria Revaccination recommended every 10 years May 2010,,


Malaria is caused by a parasite that is transmitted from person to person via the bite of an infected mosquito. It can also be transmitted by an infected blood transfusion, and from mother to baby during pregnancy. There are four species of the malaria parasite, Plasmodium. The two most common are Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium falciparum. P. vivax causes malaria that is debilitating but not usually fatal. However, P. facilparum causes rapidly progressing and often fatal disease.

Mosquito Precautions :

  • Take anti-malarial drug prophylaxis on a timely schedule
  • Wear long pants and long sleeves and light colors at night
  • Use insect repellent with between 35% and 50%
  • DEET (also OK for kids and pregnant women)
  • Use permethrin treated mosquito net for sleeping
  • Use a fan
  • Use mosquito coils.


Anti Malarial Prophylaxis Drugs

Anti-Malarial drugs do not stop you from getting the malaria parasite in your blood if you get bitten by a mosquito that carries malaria (good reason to still use precautions); however, it does stop the parasite from being able to multiply and cause the disease. Over time, malaria parasites have become resistant to many anti-malarial drugs (i.e. in areas with resistance the drug will not stop the malaria parasite multiplying in your blood). Many areas are now resistant to the traditional anti-malarial drug Chloroquine and some areas to both Chloroquine and Mefloquine [Lariam] (a newer antimalarial).

The different types include:

Lariam (mefloquine)—1 a week pill, not advised for people who have a family history of mental illness, can cause realistic dreams/night terrors.

Malarone (atovaquone/proguanil)—1 a day, more of a natural herbal mixture.

Doxycycline – 1 a day antibiotic, can be harsh on the liver if used over an extended period of time, cheapest route. 

Another way to save is to get your Doctor to give you a prescription to the off brand malaria prophylaxis.  Rather than spending over $100 USD on the name brand, I spent $20 USD for four months worth when traveling to India.

  • Be aware that most prophylaxis needs to start 1-7 days before you travel to the area to be effective (depending on the drug) so plan ahead.
  • If you forget to start pre-travel, still take it but realize that you are unprotected for the number of days you should have taken it pre-travel.
  • It is of great importance that you continue your prophylaxis for the prescribed time after you leave the malaria-risk area (1- 4 weeks depending on the drug). Remember that the drug doesn’t kill any parasites in your blood it only stops them multiplying therefore; if you stop taking it while the parasite is living you will get malaria. Many people get malaria after they return because they are not diligent at finishing the course.  Malaria can spring up months later.  Don’t let this be you!
  • If you are having side effects, see a doctor to explore reasons or help you choose a different drug. Most good travel doctors will give you their email so you can contact them while you are away.
  • Always take as directed (e.g. always take Malarone and Doxycylcine with food in the morning as they can cause nausea, vomiting and burning in your esophagus). If you are careless and have a bad experience you will be unlikely to continue with your prophylaxis.
  • Never take other medications with anti-malarial drugs before checking with your doctor
  • Read about malaria regularly to keep you from becoming apathetic.

Malaria, The Disease

Infection with the malaria parasite causes fever, shaking chills, muscle aches and pains, headache, malaise and general flu like symptoms which can occur at intervals (but not necessarily). Anemia (pale skin and tiredness) and jaundice (yellow skin and whites of eyes) can occur because the parasite kills red blood cells. Symptoms such as confusion, seizures, and unconsciousness are very bad signs associated with falciparum malaria. Malaria can act like many other illnesses so do not assume that you do or do not have malaria. You need to get a blood test to know for sure.

Malaria in Uganda

Ugandans have grown up with exposure to Malaria.  As someone who hasn’t grown up with exposure, not taking a malaria prophylaxis while in Uganda can be very harmful to your health.  There are times when we don’t feel sick, and there are the times where we feel like we are going to die—Malaria would be one of those.  It is possible to travel to Uganda and be fine while here but then to return home and months later fall ill.  It is important to tell your doctor that you have been overseas and to test you for Malaria because otherwise you could be delirious, deathly ill, and they won’t know what is going on.  It isn’t everyday that people get tested in Western countries for Malaria.  With that being said, it is very important to follow the instructions for your particular malaria prophylaxis.

Chronic Illness

If you suffer from a chronic illness, such as diabetes, you should carry an identification card or tab, which will inform others of the condition in case of an emergency. A worldwide directory of English speaking physicians is available from:

International Association for Medical Assistance to Travels

250 5th Avenue

New York, NY 10001


Have an adequate supply of any medication taken regularly, especially prescription drugs, and carry a note from your doctor stating the need for such medication. It is important to have your prescriptions filled before you leave since some drugs have different trade names in other countries.  Local pharmacies do carry basic pain meds but at a lower strength and not as good of quality.  It doesn’t hurt to pack a mini med kit just in case.

Glasses and Contact Lens

If you wear glasses or contact lenses, take along an extra pair.  It is wise to purchase all the solutions you need for your contact lenses before traveling, as these are not easily available.  Maybe in Kampala contact solution is available, but it has still yet to be found…


Life in Podunk Pader


Living Arrangements

Being able to relax and sleep at the end of the day is very important to not only our physical health, but also our mental health.  During the day, it is difficult to know which places will become a disco at night or is on the route for the 5am bus causing a loud horn every morning which will wake the light sleeper.  In general, there are a few main options for housing: 

  1. Low budget hostel’s ranging from $8 USD a night upward for a single room without a bathroom to a little more for a self contained room with a bathroom.  This may be ideal for an individual who is here longer than a couple of weeks but not here long enough to want to “settle” in a single room of their own.  Some things such as people being around and someone to get your water for you are benefits but they can also be noisy. Ex: God’s Mercy
  2. Nicer hotels run for about $20 USD a night and are self contained with a bathroom and running water.  There is also an option at one place for $40 a night with a sitting room, bathtub, and extra space.  NGO workers and visitors that are here and gone within a couple of days to a week mainly stay at these types.  Ex: Alikine Hotel
  3. Renting a single room for $20 USD a month… mainly for people who want a more authentic experience and are here for some time.  The catch is that the room most likely won’t have anything in it, the latrine and bathing area might be shared, you’ll have to pay someone to fetch water, and would be a hassle for a short termer.  For about $125 USD, a bed frame and mattress, jericans for water, basins for bathing, and other random items could be purchased to set up a room.  If you think about it, the upfront cost is higher but in the long run it’s about the same price as 1 week in a nicer hotel or 2 weeks in a budget hostel. 

Depending on your contacts in the area and what work you will be doing, there are other options that take more planning.  There are NGO’s that have moved their offices but have kept their guest houses for when they are in town.  It might be possible to rent an unused room but this takes knowing people.

Safe Drinking Water

Pader uses boreholes to collect their water.  These sources of water are unsafe to drink straight.  Boiling, filtering, using WaterGuard, and buying bottled water are the recommended ways to keep from getting giardia…

Giardia lives inside the intestines of infected humans or other animals. Individuals become infected through ingesting or coming into contact with contaminated food, soil, or water. The Giardia parasite spreads when a person accidentally swallows it, which can originate from contaminated items and surfaces that have been tainted by the feces of an infected human or animal. Consuming unsanitary water or food is also another way in which the parasite can transfer from being to being.

The symptoms of Giardia, which may begin to appear 1–2 weeks after infection, include diarrhea, excess gas, stomach or abdominal cramps, and upset stomach or nausea. The result of these occurrences is weight loss and/or dehydration, which can be harmful if not treated immediately. The typical infection within an individual is around 2–6 weeks, but medication can decrease that time period.


Food in the Frigid North

Northern Uganda has a different style of cooking than southern Uganda and a very different method than in the Western world.  They are categorized as cham, foods that are the starchier type, and dek, sauce or anything that goes with the starches.  Chips, French fries, are offered as a side for pork, omelets, fresh or fried fish, and chicken.  A roleks is a chapat (cooked in oil almost tortilla) with eggs, onion and tomato.  Meals cost from 1500 Ugandan shillings to 5000 in Pader Town Council.  In Gulu, Kitgum, or Lira, the meals are more expensive and paying 5000 or more is normal for a simple meal.

Foods include rice, posho, irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, matoke macron, and millet bread… 

Sauces include boyo, malakwan, crushed peas, beans, chicken, and smoked meat…

When ordering, order one main sauce and possibly a side and that is what you will be charged for.  You can choose as many “foods” or starches as you like.  Rice normally goes with toppings that are more soup based such as the chicken, smoked meat, or fish.  Malakwan, greens and peanut butter, is eaten with posho, sweet potatoes, or something you can use to dip in the malakwan.  Traditionally, people eat  with their hands.  In town restaurants will offer silverware but often times places to eat out in villages won’t.  


International Communication

Once arriving in Uganda, a simple purchase of a Ugandan Sim card with a local number can be made.  Phones brought from other countries need to be unlocked before the Ugandan sim card will work.  MTN sim cards cost 1.50 USD.  Phones vary in price with the cheapest being a little more than 30 USD.  After that, you purchase airtime for calls and texts as you go. has free computer to computer and .15 USD per a minute for computer to phone and is used widely by many travelers and overseas workers.  Also, offers a local Ugandan number and is .11 USD a minute.  These options are great for people back home as they can get online and call a Ugandan line much cheaper than we can call from a phone here in Uganda to a phone there. 

As for email and internet connection, a personal wireless card/thumb drive that is plugged directly into a laptop is roughly $100 USD to purchase.  Then, depending on the carrier, it is about $45 USD a month to buy internet time.  A couple of NGO’s in town have wireless internet and if you talk to the right person, these could possibly be used sparingly during working hours. 

It might be wise to simplify life while here and limit time on the internet.  People who have limited their time on the internet, on facebook, stay away from Western magazines and media sometimes adjust to life here smoother.  Spending a lot of time looking at photos of friends back home, checking out the latest styles in magazines, can remind us of what we are missing out on when the truth is we are spending time in Uganda well worth the sacrifice.


What to Bring…

This is the part where I tend to get excited, revise my last packing list, checking off items as they enter the glorious suitcase.  Surprisingly, 2 suitcases were more than enough to move to Uganda for 2 years.  If you will be here for a shorter amount, just think of how little you actually need!  Whether you will be here 4 weeks or 4 months, there are basic things to remember:

  • Some items can only be found back home while other items are best purchased in country.  This helps in weight limits but takes knowledge of what is available and what isn’t. 
  • If you are traveling to Pader by bus, having a lot of luggage is a hassle to drag around the bus park or anywhere for that matter.  It can be done but takes extra effort and precaution from people stealing your items.  Be extra cautious about your valuables.  Kampala is notorious for thief’s that are super sneaky.
  • There are no washing machines which makes washing clothes by hand a chore.  Bringing a bazillion clothes will only make your wrists hurt after hours of scrubbing.  It’s easier to pack light and do laundry more often than to let it pile up.
  • Quality and variety in Pader is not exactly there.  There are shops in Kampala that meet more of a Western standard, but in Pader it is more like a really small Dollar General store or a one stop gas station and that one needed item might be around but hard to find. 

Life in Pader is simple and it is beautiful.  Remember this.

Food  variety is limited in Pader but is doable.  It isn’t healthy to have chicken and chips every night so exploring the local food choices is encouraged.  You might start to crave certain foods which you wouldn’t expect so bringing a small stash of goodies is wise.  Granola, dried fruit, sweets, cookies, all depends on what you like. 

An ipod with small speakers is fantastic on frustrating days when the need to escape is there.  Watching a movie on a laptop is a way to relax after a tiresome and hot day.

The basics for packing are similar for all trips. Granted, if you packing for two years in Uganda, the list of items to pack changes slightly.  Here is an example packing list fitting in1 laptop backpack and 1 checked bag used for 4 months volunteering oversea and living with a family:


  • Passport
  • Extra Passport photos
  • Vaccine certificate
  • ID Card
  • Debit Card
  • Cash
  • Glasses
  • Laptop
  • flashdrive
  • Camera
  • Chargers
  • Memory cards
  • Ipod
  • Alarm clock/phone
  • Pills
  • Earplugs
  • Travel shower stuff
  • Gum
  • Burts/chapstick
  • Photos of home
  • Journal
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Snacks


Main Bag


  • 14 underwear
  • 3 socks
  • 3 bras
  • 1 Swimsuit
  • 4 Undertanks
  • 3 T-shirts (fitted)
  • 3 T-shirts (loose)
  • 5 Nice Shirts
  • 1 Long sleeve thin shirt
  • Hoodie
  • 1 church outfit
  • Athletic Shorts, knee length
  • Pants- 2 nice, 2 jeans
  • 1 lounge pants
  • Skirts- 2 knee length, 2 long
  • Pajama bottoms- shorts, knee length, full leg
  • Belt- brown/black
  • Laundry bag


  • Sandals
  • Chacos
  • Flip flops for showering
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Cross trainers


  • Toothbrush/Toothpaste
  • loofa
  • Razor/Shaving gel
  • Towel/3 washcloths
  • Face wash/Toner/cotton rounds/Moisturizer
  • Deodorant
  • Lotion
  • Tweezers
  • Q-tips
  • Nail filer, clippers
  • Brush
  • Mirror
  • Bobby pins/hair ties
  • Meds
  • Feminine products
  • Vitamins
  • First aid/med kit
  • Kleenex


  • Large notebook
  • Small notebook
  • Batteries
  • Ipod speakers, small
  • External hard drive
  • Calendar
  • Scissors
  • Duct tape
  • Sharpies
  • Good Pens
  • Note cards
  • Map of Uganda
  • Wall socket adapter


  • Bible
  • Black Prayer journal
  • East Africa lonely planet
  • 4 others
  •  sketchbook


  • Flashlight
  • 2 Headlamps
  • Bandana
  • Thin sleeping bag
  • Umbrella/Rain gear
  • Luggage locks
  • Sheets/pillowcase
  • TSA locks
  • Cards/games
  • Good pens
  • Sewing kit
  • Travel mug
  • Nalgene
  • Ziploc bags


  • Tea
  • Sweets
  • Drink mix
  • Granola bars
  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts
  • Beef Jerky


We only get a moment to create the first impression others will have of us.  In the western society, we place a high value on how we look and spend great sums of money just to stay “in style.”  While in Uganda, we should respect the culture and ensure that our appearance will communicate our intended purposes. 

Those who do not meet the social standards of modesty lose their credibility.  Villagers have asked national staff not to bring back certain foreigners who have been inappropriately dressed while in the field.  Even the standard from Kampala to the village is different- a national from Kampala wanted to do a workshop in the village but none of the villagers respected or took her seriously—all because she was wearing jeans.  It is very important to be modest and keep our dress to the least of distractions.

This doesn’t mean we must change our personal style, we just have to dress more modest.  In general, men rarely wear shorts and are seen fit for young boys.  For women, skirts below the knee are okay but long skirts are seen to be “smart”.  The inner thigh is viewed as super sexual and inappropriate to show at any time.  Although no one will say anything about a shirt that is showing cleavage or bra straps, tattered clothes, or shorts or skirts that are above the knee, it is better to respect the cultural norms and pack accordingly.

And then again, when you are in Kampala, it seems like pretty much anything goes.  So, if you are wanting to have a night out on the town, bring something jazzy.

Don’t forget, this is a work in progress and things change every day.  A more printer friendly version is available…


One thought on “Northern Uganda

  1. Acan says:

    Am a National and from Northern Uganda as well but i must say that this article is really well written with alot of Experience that even a Ugandan would find it very useful. Great article 🙂

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