Oh yes, it was a beautiful experience! It was on the 17th of March 2011 (St. Patrick’s Day) that I landed into Dublin and was greeted by the sudden spring chills. The cold sunshine was news to me, not to forget the sudden changes in the clock! For the decades I have lived in East Africa, I have never witnessed an adjustment of the clock, only to wake up on one Sunday morning and it was announced that the time had shifted by one hour ahead! Despite the fact I had been taught about the long days and short nights in geography secondary school classes, I never imagined it not getting dark until 10pm as it happened in the late spring in Ireland.
|At the southern campus of the university||
|Pope John Paul monument at the southern campus,
Hellen (Uganda) & Sylvia (Tanzania)
Getting to business, work was done in the laboratory and I was placed in the Host-Pathogen Interaction laboratory. Thanks to Dr. Martina Schroeder who guided me thoroughly through my period of stay in the National University of Ireland Maynooth (NUIM), I got a very good experience of a series of techniques which included cloning, western blotting, mammalian tissue culture, primer design and sequence analysis. Unlike in my masters’ research where point mutations were very significant in antimicrobial (Quinolones) resistance and one would pray for no such mutations to occur, in NUIM I managed to introduce point mutations purposefully by site directed mutagenesis; it was an exciting lab experience.
I also got a very good learning experience on how to write winning grant proposals with Dr Noel Murphy and Dr Caroline Ang of the NUIM research support office, who gave me an excellent and precise talk on how to go about the writing of grant proposals. More to learn was in the global health classes with Dr. Thomas Strong. Intriguing questions came up like, “Does global health mean diseases of the poor?” Which of course meant the developing world; and in my case; Uganda. How about phrases like; ‘sex and death were now two inseparable neighbours!’, referring to the era of HIV/ AIDS. Oh yes, several foods for thought in the global health classes.
The CDPC fellowship also included the Irish aid meeting in Limerick, in which students supported by the IrishAid/HEA Programme for Strategic Cooperation could participate. It was a nice net-working time, not to forget the hot Ugandan session addressing the issue of foreign aid, poverty, corruption and unemployment. I also participated in the Africa day celebration at Trinity College Dublin, and this was graced by a series of speakers, but memorable was Professor Maggie Kigozi, the Executive Director; Uganda Investment Authority, who challenged the audience to stop lamping Africa: ‘A problem in one African country, does not mean the whole of Africa.’
Interesting was also the outreach visit to a second level mixed school with Joseph Clowry, the CDPC education officer, where we gave a talk about HIV/AIDS. It was amazing how the students knew very little about the pandemic. This was followed by Easter Monday and the Easter egg celebrations at the Farmleigh house, thanks to Dr. Martina’s invitation. It made our Easter weekend! Finally, unforgettable was the glimpse of the ‘strongest man in the world’, the president of the USA, Obama; Yes; we can! It never came easy, since we had to queue for 5 hours before we could reach the final security check point where the man would be seen. Oh yes, I saw him; Obama! He was about 80 meters from where the Garda stopped me.
By the Garda; part of the security during the Obama’s visit to Ireland (left) and the five hour queue to see Obama (centre) in Dublin. With Ugandan CDPC colleagues; Erick and Christopher in Dublin