Friday, July 23, 2010

Eight weeks down, four to go

Well, now three, but this post presents the events of week four. I was a bit apprehensive of this week. Last weekend, I started getting a bit antsy about going home. I'm getting really excited to come home. I love it here and have had (and still am having) an amazing time, but I really miss everyone at home. It's a hard reconciliation because I also know that when we leave, I'm going to break down in tears because I'm going to miss everyone so much.

Anyway, these week we trained our research assistants (RAs) in our survey and pilot tested it on Thursday. On Monday, the RAs translated the questionnarie to two of the local languages--Luganda and Ateso, then on Tuesday we reviewed the translations to make sure that Nrupa and I had typed everything correctly and then we briefly reviewed the skip patterns (which are ridiculously confusing) to make sure that they could deliver it appropriately.

On Tuesday I also continued with week two of my pediatric nutrition assessment. It started of well, but quickly went down hill. I normally latch on to Grace, the girl who takes down client names as they come to the clinic. Often I can get her to help me find out client ages and where they live, but Tuesday she went home early because she wasn't feeling well. That left me with no one. There were a few children in the center who were visible malnourished, but I wasn't able to measure them because I couldn't communicate with them. It was so frustrating and heartbreaking. I'm doing this assessment to help Nova and the center, but I'm not receiving adequate support from staff, which hinders my ability implement this assessment.

Thankfully both Monday and Tuesday ended on a high note. We played football (soccer) on Monday and volleyball on Tuesday. It was so much fun. I can't believe we took such a long break from playing. We hadn't played since that very first time over a month ago when the UBC kids were still here. It was nice to get a bit of exercise in and hang out with people from work in a social setting. Now we're trying to arrange a big game with people from work for next Tuesday. We've been talking about it all week, telling everyone. And we're going to make signs this weekend and hang them around TASO on Monday so that everyone comes prepared on Tuesday and no one has an excuse not to come.

Wednesday was pretty uneventful. Nothing was going on so we left work after lunch and just spent the afternoon lounging at home. Then that night there was a huge storm. Nrupa went out to the Hindu temple again (yay, more dinner invitations), so I was home alone when the electricity went out and a huge clap of thunder shook the house. I quickly lit the candles and huddled in a ball on the couch, frantically texting her to come home as soon as possible. Then Tom came over and we talked (by which I mean he talked) for about an hour before he went back home for dinner. Tom is such a nice guy, but it really is exhausting talking to him. His English is really good, especially considering that he didn't finish school, but the way in which he talks is so roundabout and the language he uses is a bit different than I'm used to. I wish he would just get to the point and ask for what he wants directly. Not that I'd give it to him (ie: I don't have the money to pay for his kids' education), but at least we could move on with the conversation more quickly. I think he was telling me how he came to be appointed to his current post as our night guard, but I'm not entirely sure about that. Also, that night, our kitchen faucet stopped working. When we first arrived at the house, it was pretty leaky, but we were able to pretty much stop the leak by tightening it with a wrench. This week, however, it started leaking again, almost in a full stream. Now, even when the tap is open all the way, only a barely noticeable stream of water comes out. I tried to do the dinner dishes Wednesday night and could only get through 2 plates (which took about 20 minutes) before I got frustrated and just left them for Regina to do. I felt bad about it, but she can do them outside in the water spigot during the day. I don't feel comfortable doing that at night. Tom spoke to the landlord about the problem, but the landlord wants us to pay to replace it. We told Tom that that was never going to happen. He owns the house; it is his responsibility to make sure that it is in good condition and replace what needs replacing. Furthermore, we're only in the house for another 3 weeks, so we are certainly not paying for anything to be replaced (sorry future fellows).

On Thursday I woke up in a bad mood because of a conversation I had had the night before. I was hoping I would be able to sleep it off, but that didn't work so well. And since it was another day in the pediatric wing, I didn't have high hopes for the day. When I arrived at TASO to find that Grace wasn't there, my mood sank even further. Thankfully, I was quite wrong. The day ended up being very productive. I took charge in the peds wing and just started calling people up without someone to assist me. It ended up working quite well. I measured almost every single child that came to the center. I only missed a few because they were in the lab or something and only returned after I had finished for the day. In the afternoon, we started pilot testing our study. At first, I didn't think it was going to work. Printing is always an issue because paper and ink are very expensive here, but after a few hours we were able to get all of our surveys (all 17 pages) printed. Next we had to track down our RAs. They were supposed to meet us at 11:30 when they finished their other duties at TASO, but of course none of them showed up. Finally, around 2:00 we found 3 of them and were able to implement a few of the surveys. We also corralled some of the counselors to interview people. In the end, we had six completed surveys. We're going to try to get another six next week and then spend our last week and a half at TASO revising the questionnaire so that it's ready to go when the next fellows arrive.

Thursday night we were planning on walking around the slums of Mbale with Martin, but we took a detour to the Hindu temple and ended up spending almost 2 hours there. Nrupa was explaining the symbolism of all the gods (really it's just incarnations of one god), and then we stayed for the evening pooja (prayer). Martin is super Christian, so we were both impressed that he made it through the evening and even took some of the blessed food the priest gave us. We're going back on Tuesday because the priest is making us lunch. Nrupa said it's because we're American and apparently there's some prestige in having Westerners to dine, but I don't mind. It's free food and it's good food!

Today we're both just working on our own projects. We were hoping to submit our proposals to the TASO IRB by today, but that might not be happening until next week. However, it must happen next week because the committee meets the first week of August, so that's our last chance to have our studies approved. Tonight is take two of visiting the slums, then we're going to Restville, the "club" we went to our second weekend in Mbale with the UBC kids. It was so much fun last time, I'm worried about tonight's prospects. The fun bar has been set quite high, so we'll see how it goes. I think Martin and maybe one other guy from work, Ronald, are coming, along with Allan, and I'm not sure any of them drink that much. Not you have to drink to have fun, but I'm worried about their ability to let loose and enjoy themselves in that kind of setting. We shall see... Worst comes to worst, we'll go home and watch a movie. Always an enjoyable time.

We were hoping to go to Kapchurwa this weekend since we weren't able to go last weekend (our friends' truck broke down so they ended up coming to Mbale instead). Unfortunately for us, they're actually moving out of their house today and spending the next week or so in Mbale before they go back to the States. I'm not sure what we're going to do, but I hope we do something. We've spent the last 2 weekends in Mbale and we're both feeling a bit stir crazy. There's not really that much to do in this small town. I think we might go play with Tom's kids for a bit tomorrow, but so far that's our only plan. Sunday will probably end up being some working and swimming at Mbale resort.

I can't believe we only have 3 more weekends here. Next weekend I think we're going to try to go to Soroti for a day to meet one of our co-workers kids. Then the following weekend we're thinking about throwing a good-bye TASO party. The girls who were here last semester did, and everyone always talks about how much fun it was. They had a bunch of beer and cooked two goats, so the bar is set pretty high. It would be fun, but Nrupa and I aren't sure we have the funs for such an extravangaza. Last time there were 3 fellows, so the costs were split a bit more. I'm also not sure I want a goat slaughtered and cooked in my yard... Oh well, we'll see. We're also going to have to find time to visit Martin in Tororo. I think our last weekend in Mbale is the weekend that he's moving there for his new job. We'll see if that happens. Then, for our last week we're planning on going to Rwanda. We're thinking about leaving Mbale August 10 or 11, getting to Kampala in the early afternoon, and then taking the 12 hour, overnight bus ride to Kigali. Nrupa has a friend who's doing Peace Corps in Rwanda, so she is planning on meeting us in the capital. Unfortunately, those are going to have to be last minute plans because we have to see what happens with the Presidential elections in Rwanda. Paul Kagame is expected to win by a landslide (again), but there's always the possibility that violence could break out, and it would of course be centered in Kigali. Since the elections are August 9, we're going to be making the decision to go at the very last minute. Hopefully everything is okay. Otherwise we might end up just visiting Nrupa's friend in her village or explore western Uganda. No matter what, I'm going to need to get out of Mbale. I know that I'm going to need something more than TASO to settle my excitement of going home. Also, I want some time to detach a bit from TASO and get used to the idea of not being here before we leave. I guess the seven hour layover in Amsterdam will help with that too...

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