December 11

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Goodbye Uganda…Hello England! #becsoneill

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I’ve been putting off writing this blog for a while because I was really stuck on finding how to find the words to say goodbye to Uganda and wrap up the unbelievable experience I have had over the past 6 months. Even though I spent my last several days in Africa lazing and relaxing doing pretty much nothing in the paradise of Zanzibar, I still couldn’t put pen to paper…or finger tips to laptop rather.

So as I am sat here snug as a bug in my cozy Christmassy living room with an English brew and an episode of Downton Abbey at the ready I’m thinking….ahhhhh… it’s so good to be back home! Uganda feels like a million miles away now but will be in memories for a lifetime.

When I got to Entebbe airport waiting to board the BA62 back home to Heathrow I was feeling really mixed emotions- Upset, excited, apprehensive and a little over-whelmed but as soon as I hit the tarmac at Heathrow and seeing Barney’s smiling face as I walked through arrivals I was instantly happy to be back.

Now that I’ve had nearly a week back at home getting back to home-life and spending most of my time trying to stay warm I think it’s now about time I take a stab at summing up my time, sharing some highlights and saying Thank You to many of you who made this happen for me.

This time last week, I had my leaving dinner with some of my collegues and friends that I have become very close to since being in Uganda. It wasn’t until I said my goodbyes to them and especially to Paul at the airport that it is finally started to sink in that I was actually leaving. Saying goodbye to Paul was the worst, I think because he was the first smiling face to greet me at the airport and I suppose only right that he was the last. But as I saw him drive off I had a huge lump in my throat, slightly sick feeling in my stomach and was on the brink of tears. He was genuinely one of the most trustworthy, kind hearted people I have ever and probably will ever meet as I think his type are a rarity in our world and I feel very lucky to have known him.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I was SO overwhelmed with excitement to get back home to Barney and to my friends and family…and to GSK to a new a job but I guess I never realised how hard leaving might be and how difficult it maybe transitioning back to home-life. My first drive down the M25, ride on the Tube and shopping trip to Tesco’s all seemed really daunting when I was over there but I knew I would get over it quickly especially being back with Barney, friends and family and especially over Christmas! Mulled wine, Christmas trees, open fires, woolley cosy clothes, Christmas tunes ….YES YES YES!!! I LOVE Christmas! So far, I feel like I’ve adjusted very easily!

So what did I learn? I sense this is going to be a key question so best I get it out early to avoid repetitive conversations…although for some reason I feel like talking about this part of my life will never get boring..to me that is!

Professionally, I’ll have to admit it wasn’t what I expected. Slightly arrogantly, I felt like I would give back to the NGO in terms of skills, experience etc than I would gain but it has been more weighted the other way. Although, I’m very proud of what I have achieved at CHAI I have learnt an incredible amount from them and my colleagues there. It was the most diverse bunch of people I will ever work with across many different internationalities and areas of expertise, which is a positive in that everyone has a different perspective and fresh ideas to a problem or project but it also pushed me to the edge in terms of dealing with conflicting personalities- not something I have had to deal with or chosen to deal with at GSK. Most people that know me well from work and personally know that I like to act on things quickly, make impulsive decisions and get things done…irrespective of whether it might be the most logical or sensible thing to do- This I had to adapt being out in Uganda as it just does not operate quickly because of the lack of infrastructure but also because of the lack of data that determines what is the right or wrong strategy. In Uganda I had to develop a huge amount of patience which has more often than not worked in my favour on my projects because my initial decision was the wrong one!

Personally, I have loved living and completely immersing myself in a totally different culture and way of life. Being surrounded by people, especially the locals within the more rural communities has definitely opened my eyes to a whole new perspective. I know I have spoken about this in a number of blogs but seeing how these people live vs what I have at home and how happy they are has really brought home all that I take for granted and I hope this stays with me for life. It has really made me appreciate that I do have- a house made of brick and not mud, a loving caring boyfriend and not an alcoholic wife abuser …with 3 or 4 wives, Loving parents who are alive and healthy, a job that pays more than £1 a week, access to health care and medicines vs facilities that I don’t have to walk 20km to, quick readily available water rather than walking 10km to a dirty stream.

Both professionally and personally it has been life changing and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I could never have done it without the support from GSK, friends and family and I want to say a HUGE HUGE Thank You to everyone for the pep talks when times were tough, the visits and effort people made to come and see me, for listening to my stories and for sharing this incredible experience with me.

So there we go..a truly amazing 6 months that went by in blink but will stay with me for a lifetime- Goodbye Uganda ….for now..

Over and Out!

Becs