Technical Difficulties

I have updates! But they are typed up on my computer which hasn’t had access to the Internet for about 27 hours now. 💀

Permissions on my laptop are so locked down I can’t even change the time zone let alone my wifi settings.

I sent a cry for help to Ohio State’s IT Service Desk but I have no idea whether they’ll be able to help me.

Please send your wifi healing feelings!

UPDATE: that was fast! About 3 hours after posting this I was back in action. The power of vibes-err-prayer-err-desperate endless rebooting.

Azungu Parade

   On Saturday we decided to venture outside the CLI walls and check out the market in Msundwe. It’s about a 90 minute walk on a single red dirt road.
I asked our chef Fred for advice and he said to ‘focus’ because of all the attention we’d get.
It wasn’t the first time I’d gotten caught up in a Mzungu parade, but this was definitely my most overwhelming. Over the course of the walk around 100 children joined us, shouting ‘Azunugu!’ (the plural version of Mzungu, ‘white person’) and asking for money, footballs, etc. I felt bad because it was disruptive to people trying to bike their loads down the road or taxi passengers between villages.
Our new friends were sweet but it was a bummer that they seemed to perceive all white people as gift dispensers. The people who run CLI know about sustainable giving, but it seems like many of the visitors here haven’t really upheld that philosophy. We tried making friends with them and showing our human sides, connecting with them as best we could across the language barrier. But they were super persistent on asking for our bags, sunglasses, even a pen in Julika’s pocket. They broke off pleasantly, though, even after we held our ground. Julia told them ‘stay in school and you’ll get to buy your own pen!’ They seemed to really enjoy practicing their English with us.
When we got to the market some of the adults helped shoo away the children so we could have some breathing room. We said Zikomo about ten times and got to shopping. I immediately got a wrap to wear around my waist—the proper dress for Malawian women. I got help putting in on and struggled keeping it there the rest of my time there.
I picked up some containers I needed for the site, some ‘fritters’— round donut-like things I saw our research team having for breakfast last week, and another cloth to wear as a wrap or put down in the grass to sit outside when I’m on site.
I loved seeing rows and rows of bikes, and a station with a welder who fixed bikes on the spot with a giant tank just standing alone all forboding.
The people were all nice and one woman saw me carrying the containers on my hip and insisted I put them on my head. I lasted around 30 seconds before bruising myself, and my containers were empty.
On the way back we stopped at the ‘beer garden’ which turned out to be a desolate, plant-less compound with a few men and their booze. They were a little too happy to see us and we knew we needed to make it quick. Araceli, the head of hospitality at CLI, told us there was a stout beer that was common in the area, and I wanted to try it. No stout, but there was Shake Shake, a brand of the “village beer” Chibuku. A man we passed at the market insisted we try his, and we politely declined but figured this was an opportunity to try it out.
We started home and when the children broke off near the end of the trip, we took a break and tried it. I opened it and realized the connection to a ‘shake’ and why it might be in a carton. The beer was completely unfiltered, with chunks of the grain floating around in a gritty white liter of heterogeneous fluid. It actually didn’t taste as bad as it looked, it was quite sour and, as legend has it, supposedly had a pretty high alcohol content without the risk of a hangover. By the time we tried it though, it was shaken up from my walk and gotten warm. I poured the rest out and we carried on right before some CLI visitors happened to drive by and pick us up. With more than 2 hours of walking under our belts we were happy to give our dirty, blistered feet some relief.
For more information about Chibuku, I highly recommend these colorful reviews on Rate Beer.
Have a great weekend everyone, tionana (see you later)!

Independence Days

The 4th of July is a pretty good day to have your last day in the US before a long trip.image

Fun fact: I’ll get to celebrate Independence Day again when I land, as July 6th is the day Malawi attained independence from the British in 1964.

I’m about to leave New York for Johannesburg (kind of can’t believe a single stretch goes that far), with the volunteer IDs, some kwacha, a $60 unlocked droid phone that will work on the global network, all the luggage I could carry and then some.

Wish me luck getting myself and all my stuff to CLI without any himageuge hiccups! Thanks for everyone’s sweet well wishes I’ve received in the past week or so, can’t wait to get to work and share it all with you.

Learning By Doing

Replace “being an adult,” with “leading a transcontinental practicum experience project” and this interweb gem has been my life.

Okay, not just Googling, but digging through journals and asking tons of questions. I’ve taken courses about public health in ‘developing countries’ but nothing on maternal health exclusively. So I’ve done a lot of learning by research and doing.

The elements of the project (so far) are the maternal/neonatal mortality audit form, a surveillance protocol, a database with data entry protocol, a volunteer training session and a volunteer manual.

My process for each piece is pretty much finding versions that have already been made (if/when that exists), comparing it to white papers and other peoples’ lessons learned for similar projects, aligning it with best practice guidelines by institutions like WHO or UNICEF, and researching Malawi-specific reports and maternal health projects from the area so I can make sure it’s relevant and appropriate.

I’ve gotten these far enough along to get the project off the ground so we can been able to take in cases (another neonatal death was reported last week). From here I’ll be refining them with experts on site at CLI. My time there overlaps with doctors from Baylor College of Medicine, including an OB-GYN who is living there currently. I’m also looking forward to working along side my practicum preceptor Gladson and other CLI research staff who can help me understand what needs to be done to make sure the tools fit in with the Malawian culture. Finding the right timing so we can respect the traditional mourning period, while getting our data close enough to the event for accurate reporting, is one item on that list.

Taking initiative to learn by doing + research has been difficult at times, but it’s been a huge growing opportunity for me and has been a great exercise for my brain. Now I’m looking forward to perfecting this system and making it run like a well-oiled surveillance machine!

Ode to Syllabus Week

Shoobies from Rocket Power


As an employee who works through the summers, I think I know what it’s like to live in a tourist destination.

The wave of humanity all descends on your neighborhood rapidly, they don’t know where they’re going, they dress poorly for the weather and social conditions. They fill up the cafes around your place of work and you wait forever for a cup of coffee (the only thing you really ever buy because the prices are stupid and the food is grossly indulgent. I don’t think that brownie would even fit into my bag…). Ironically, they’re the reason you have your job so you really need them around.

Starting today I will refer to all poorly acclimated OSU students as shoobies. In the most endearing way, of course.