I leave Sunday! The countdown is now less than a week and I’m pulling things together. This is my third international trip and I’m not forgetting all the lessons learned the hard way from my first two:
Coffee. Peru and Uganda both being known for their coffee exports, I thought I’d be drinking some fancy brews, but was woefully mistaken.
In an effort to avoid 4 weeks of instant Nescafe, I’m bringing a disposable pour-over for each day. I think the materials inside the packet are compostable. I found these on Amazon for a fraction of what I pay for coffee here at home. Traveling internationally is always an exercise in flexibility, but I’m giving myself a pass on this one. I think allowing myself a few creature comforts can help me direct my energy on all the other ways I’ll be out of my element.
I’m lucky to have very little to worry about as far as regular medications–just a daily Malaria pill and the typical travelers’ kit of SPF, DEET and ahem, digestive precautions.
I’m going during Malawi’s cool, dry season. Which means fewer mosquitos, so lower malaria risk. It’s also a lot easier for me to stay comfortable and dress conservatively. When you think about going to Africa in July you don’t think about breaking out the sweaters, but that’s what I’m doing as nights will be pretty chilly and days will be in the 70s. In my first trip to Africa I completely underestimated what’s appropriate for dress and was way too casual–this round I’m wearing long skirts and outfits I wear to work now to make a good impression.
I’m taking over a bunch of items for the project, too. Including my volunteer t-shirts! I was so excited to get these in the mail last week. It was a much-needed tangible reminder of all the people who are involved in this surveillance system and the impact we can have on maternal health in their community.
These shirts cost 2-3 times what I originally expected to pay for the volunteer incentives, but I’m so happy I was able to get them. They’re really going to help volunteers identify with the project, which is the whole point. I’ve met my extended goal on my fundraising page and that provided me some additional funds for this expense.
*The shirts are also taking 2-3 times the space that my original idea–the volunteer totes–would have taken. Which means I’m looking to borrow a large suitcase. Anyone in Columbus have one they don’t need until August? A BIG one you have to check.
As many projects go, unexpected expenses happen. I wanted to pick up a scanner, for example, so the team members on site can have access to digitizing the audit forms as they’re completed. I’m currently receiving photos of the completed forms taken with a point-and-shoot, and doing data entry from those. This system works in the short term, but should really be improved. So, if you meant to donate to my project and have procrastinated, it’s not too late! At this point, the more I can raise the longer I can support the expenses of my project before they become CLI’s burden.
I can’t say thanks enough to everyone who has supported me and this project. I’m incredibly lucky to be surrounded by so many great people who have taken an interest and offered to help in so many ways. It’s another motivation on a long list of reasons why I’m committed to perfecting this system while I’m on site. More on that next!