In addition to the handful of bylines you’ll see from me by the end of this internship, I’ve also been chasing interviews for longer-form projects at the request of Save the Mothers directors. These assignments will outlive my time here in Uganda, though, as you can imagine, grabbing an interview in person and on the ground is greatly preferred over trying to wrestle the time difference and technology barriers between the admins in Canada and the sources in Uganda.
And while these assignments are naturally less glamorous than those size 12 font, Times New Roman bylines, I’m finding they provide some of the best experience in international reporting.
In fact, my first interview of this nature was an extreme learning experience–the kind where just about everything goes wrong and by the end you can’t help but laugh and mumble, “Hey, at least I learned something.”
I had been trying to pin down a very busy doctor, teacher and leading obstetrician in Uganda. I knew that I needed to make myself available when he was available if we were to sit down at all, which is why when he called at 11:00 a.m. on a Sunday and said he was 20 minutes outside of Mukono and wanted to stop by, I welcomed him without hesitation.
Nevermind that I was still at church when I received the call, albeit the service had just finished. I took a motorbike back to the office, only to realize upon arriving that I didn’t have a key to the room which held my laptop (and thus, the premeditated questions), voice recorder and camera. After a wild goose chase to obtain these objects, I rolled up to the office–beads of sweat glittering my face–to find my source patiently waiting.
I opened my laptop to retrieve the questions which were sitting in my email to find out that the internet on campus was down. I guess I can try to wing it? Remembering three out of 10 premeditated questions was about all I could muster in the thick of panic.
I grabbed my voice recorder–a seriously handy tool for what would become a 75 minute interview, especially because I’m not entirely trained in hearing through a Ugandan accent yet.
Dead. The voice recorder was dead.
It was at this point that the doctor graciously offered to let me pull the questions up on his tablet. Crisis one averted!
But the voice recorder?
Thankfully, I had my DSLR Nikon in the room. It’s not a fancy voice recorder, but it records sound and I was desperate. Sure, it only records in 20 minute intervals, so I had to save and restart the record every couple of questions. But crisis number two? Averted.
After a rough start, Dr. O was phenomenal–passionate about his work and engaging when talking about it. The interview was mostly centered on his perspective and involvement in the creation of Save the Mothers.
After I snapped a few photos, Dr. O left for home and I was left laughing at my desk. Laughing because I was so incredibly relieved the interview survived at all. Laughing because I was genuinely pleased with the information I gathered. And laughing because it is those moments that the work is real. Really challenging. Really rewarding. Really funny.
If that experience is any indication of my upcoming appointments this week–more interviews, hospital tours, new posts–then I will be laughing–and learning–a lot.