When I’m not running around like a crazy person preparing for a meeting like yesterday’s, here’s what a typical day at the office looks like:
Breakfast with my roommates, Araseli the CLI hospitality manager and sometimes other people on site.
Eggs with beautiful yokes and indulgent toast is the norm.
For those who were wondering, my coffee solution is perfect and is a hit with others on site.
Breakfast is sometimes rushed so we can hop across the site and get to our morning meeting at the clinic.
Clinic and research staff attend to give updates, ask for feedback on upcoming projects, and raise any issues. There’s usually also a presentation. We saw two last week about malaria diagnosis and treatment. I like how the doctors and ‘superior’ staff take time to share what they learn about new standards and best practices with the broader group. For example, they shared doses for children taking first-line malaria treatment with everyone, even though only a few of those present had authority to prescribe.
Last Friday we used this time to get feedback on the volunteer guide, and the project as a whole, from the clinic and research teams.
After the morning meeting we go to the office. It’s simple, I’ll call it an ‘open workspace’ concept with lots of sun. Everyone works diligently, as a group or quietly on their own, until lunch.
Mzungus eat separate from the rest of the staff, which is kind of a bummer. We do benefit from more variety of the kinds of foods we eat, but “doing as the Malawians do” was more of what I expected. I can’t complain though; they just want us to be happy, and the food is great.
Sometimes we are served Malawian food; the main staple being nsima, a white cornmeal kind of dough that you mold in your hand and dip in whatever it’s served with. That is usually “relish” which reminds me of southern cooked greens at home; and then sometimes another version with some kind of peanut flour or paste in it. They call it “peanut butter” flavored.
Everyone in Malawi gets a 90 minute lunch break: it’s actually the law. So depending on the day I check in on things back at the home front (hi ODEE!), take care of things in my room (like cleaning the shoes I filled with dirt on the walk to the market last weekend) or practice some yoga. It’s super sunny, every day this time of year.
Our afternoon at work is our chance to communicate with people in the states so sometimes we do some of that. The other day it took 30 minutes, two computers, and several phones to connect for a conference call which was still off-and-on connectivity that often required transcription on the typing section of skype while my advisor Alison spoke on her end. It’s an exercise in patience.
Otherwise, we just do more of whatever we did in the morning. In the afternoon there are fewer people around, as some staff get assigned to work outside the clinic.
We’ve often come back to the room to find Midnight on one of our beds, which is just like home for me. I recently found out that this was ‘against the rules’ though, oops.
Sometimes we work out before dinner. I’m sharing the room with an agriculture volunteer (Mackenzie) and a student researcher (Julika) and the three of us have done circuit training and running. Malawians, of course, think it’s funny that we exercise. I’m glad we can provide them some entertainment while we get some of that extra energy out from all the eating we do.
Sometimes after dinner we play games like bananagrams or puzzles. Usually we make calls home, do some reading and go to bed early. Like, lights out by 9.
That’s a (week)day in the life for me. It’s a nice routine with some wonderful people and a lot shorter to-do list than at home. I’m learning how to multitask effectively–loading a web page can take dozens of minutes and downloading a device driver has proven to take an hour or two. But with all the progress we’ve made already, I’m feeling confident about having a comprehensive system in place by the time I head home.
Zikomo kwambiri (thanks much)!