Aparna in Mozambique

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Some last photos!

I leave tomorrow for Johannesburg and then arrive in the US on Friday....leaving everyone with these last few images.....

Last Days in Beira

I am really looking forward to these last minute travels, fresh with my last few days memories and more to come!!

warm wishes...

Back to Malawi...Full Circle

It is crazy. I remember counting the days here and there and thinking this many days, this many projects until I leave. And now, finally, tomorrow I leave. And where am I? I am at the Ryalls hotel in Blantyre, MW. Just like I used to be during my days in Blantyre. Its strange. My friends aren't here. Its raining. Its cold. And it feels sort of like those first days when I got to malawi. When I didn't know my feet from my head.

Well, now I am running around last minute trying to meet people, have dinner, and upload photos for my readers, but its mostly just a distraction from it being my last night and all.

Do I have any last minute conclusions? Not really! I am terrible at goodbyes and terrible at last minute conclusions. I think I go back to my stance that people are the same anywhere you go and anywhere you go you just live your life really. But the important thing is to never lose that feeling about being curious about where you are and the people around you. And to make observations of things that you find different in each distinct context. But, overall, I think over the past 2 years, well, all I can conclude is that its important to relax, observe, and think. That is probably more important than making definitive statements. Ah, sigh, what a "social scientist" I have turned out to be.

I would again, like to thank all of the people who have supported me over the past two years and to thank the greater force up above. I really am grateful for this time, even if I am left with even more questions before.

I look forward to coming home and to seeing all of you and hearing about your lives. Thank you for reading and I hope to keep in touch in other ways, other than the country based blogs....

Warm wishes for this cold winter and new year!!!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Catching up

Its a sunday in Beira and although I have a lot to do this week, I cant seem to get motivated. Yesterday and today I spent most of the day swimming, drinking coffee, and reading....and reading....and eating and sleeping. It feels good, my body must be needing it. I finally have been able to post at least a few pictures of my travels to Nampula, Pemba, and just a few from Tete. I somehow didn't even think to take out the camera in Chimoio or Buzi. Sorry for that. I don't have many people of my project pictures but thats because I feel, as always, conflicted about putting up pictures of people who will never have access to see these pictures on the internet and thus, would never be conscious of the fact that I put them up, ..... and so, I didn't. In any case, we can enjoy these few vacation-esque pictures...and I will stick to my relaxed Sunday and leave my more profound thoughts for a during the week blog.....bom domingo

Nampula and Pemba

Friday, November 28, 2008

Missing in Action

The last few weeks have been a little but busy with traveling. Again, for the study I was in Chimoio, Tete, and then Buzi district in Sofala for a different project also related to HIV/AIDS. I am finally back to Beira and wanted to (better late than never) put up some pictures of my house (well my roommate's house). I have 1.5 weeks left in Mozambique, quite a bit to do, but looking forward to wrapping up....it is 6AM on a Sunday morning and I woke up about an hour ago thinking about how much I needed to catch up on the news and post at least something on my blog. I will work on the Pemba and Nampula photos when I can and will work on some more profound observations when I can......happy thanksgiving...I am thankful for all the opportunities I've had in the last few weeks and all the people that have supported me over the past few years......

Beira my house!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Pemba news...

October 27, 2008

I am travelling. Well, travelling to do this study on HIV/AIDS within the university. I think I had mentioned it before I left and even claimed that I would blog before on my way. Alas, on the last day before I left, I was called to a coffee and didn’t make it back in time to blog away before my flight. In any case those last minute Beira pictures that I took of the place I stay before I left will come as soon as I am back to beira and can post things again!

Okay, so now that those are out of the way, what exactly have I been up to for the past week or so. Well, the trip started out in Nampula. Yes, Nampula, we have talked about this on before in May. I was at the college in May, but just at a different faculty. Nothing so new here, we are still doing this knowledge, attitudes and practices survey on HIV with all people (students, teachers, technical staff, and administration) involved in work at the college. The different twist to it is that I have two assistants this time. Yes! Me, with assistants. Moving up in the food chain I suppose. Well, they aren’t mine, per se, considering that I don’t actually “work” at the university. But, still, they are mine. And they are wonderful. One is a young student in her last year of teaching college at the public university in Beira and the other is a very recent graduate of our university (actually the one where we started and did all the surveys) and got a scholarship to go to France. The idea is for me to be very organized and well, OCD and show them the ropes a little bit so that next month, when we are on the road again, they can sort of run the show and then do future studies that need to be done.

Again, I promise updated Nampula pictures when back to high speed internet for those who forgot what it looks like….Nampula is the third largest city in Mozambique (after Beira), and apparently is the fastest growing city economically (not sure how that is defined). Anywho it is close to the port of Nacala and close to the very famous Ilha de Mocambique. Apparently, this is a place not to be missed, but ah, well, I happened to miss it for lack of time. My colleague described it to me as “very uncommon in Africa, but perhaps common in Latin America.” A small colonial town with a mix of cultures, particularly those from the East……One of the neat things about the place (now a UNESCO world heritage site) is that a whole bunch of ships sunk nearby way back when (think 200 or so years ago). After they sunk, people began to find beads inside the boats that were made of beautiful glass. These beads were then used to make necklaces to sell to tourists for a few dollars or so. It turns out that these beads had formerly been used by traders to trade slaves! It was so strange to me; the concept that such beautiful things (of nearly no value) were used to represent and exchange human lives. Sort of eerie…and in any case, apparently now at the island they just have a whole ton of phonies. The original ones stopped being made when they decided to make the whole place a heritage site.

I digress. Another quick piece of information is that the methodology I helped design for the rapid health assessment in April, is now being used up north and is supposed to be used in other sites as well (this is a good thing for me). Basically what it means, is that I know how to create a simple and easy standard for assessing health and it can be adapted to utilize in different areas. Sadly, I missed the team because I was there the week before they were scheduled to be out, but ah well, its good to know that I at least had a sense of what they would be doing in the area near to Nampula.

So yes, our colleagues, with their luck, were able to catch a ride up to Pemba, our #2 destination in this study with some other colleagues. At first I thought that I was lucky to be able to spend an extra day in Nampula eating, climbing a mountain and walking around. It is true, I did observe some novelties in Nampula and climbing the rock mountain and seeing how people were chipping off rock from the surface with a german colleague from the college of medicine and an older Portuguese law professor from the azores were sort of a highlight, followed and topped off by my ever famous dinner at the milenio hotel Indian diner was all very wonderful.

But, the next morning, we got going on another epic trip on the bus. My assistant colleague and I had to get up at 3:30AM in the morning to catch a bus that left at 5AM. I woke up at 2:30AM because of text messages that arrived probably much later than they were supposed to, but anyhow. I made it onto the bus. We got there at 4AM and found an American colleague who teaches English at the college of tourism in Pemba. She showed us the ropes having done it several times and had no shame pushing her way up in line. The funny thing to me about the whole ordeal was that the bus man was trying to say that he was going to call numbers and everyone would get on. To which the colleague retorted, “everyone knows it doesn’t work like that” and we proceeded to push our way onto the bus, just like everyone else. The three of us got strategic window seats, one after one another and pretty much eased and breezed. That is, until the bus in front of us had an incident, and all of the passengers had to get off and get on our bus. That’s right, 2 buses in one. Add babies, vegetables, fruit, chicken, and people moving their lives. And you get a lot of chaos. We left at 5AM and got into Pemba at 1:30PM. Supposedly, that wasn’t bad for what was meant to be a 6 hour trip. Ah, so it goes.

So now we are in Pemba and just finished our first day of work. Last night I had a terrible night sleep because of the neighboring disco. But tonight, it’s just me, my mosquito net, my air conditioner, and a good 6 hour minimum of sleeping! I can’t wait…I can already feel the zzzzs coming on. Here is to my good beach week and promises to write more when I am back to Beira…..

Friday, October 17, 2008

Lazy Beira Friday

I'm sitting in my room, going through our information from the market plants study and wondering if I should be making coffee to get me through the rest of this afternoon....I should.....and also I'm imagining what I was doing last Friday at this time. So, last Friday at this time I was in Maputo. I was in Maputo eating a toasted cheese sandwich and a coke with two colleagues from the WHO. It was sort of a surreal conversation, talking of renewed contracts and new ones, East Asia and West Africa. And me, in between the whole time, talking of going back home to the burbs (practical) so that I could see the many people that I call my family and polish off a few required things before heading back to school (hopefully) next spring. I digress...Yes, I was in Maputo! I was there for 3 weeks in fact. The first one, well obviously Sarah was there....and here are some more pictures from that one. Very similar to my other Tofo pictures (April) but different people and different experiences and still, worth putting up on the blog..

Some more from Maputo

The second week I tried to meet everyone that I had never met. People from the red cross, private consultants who had designed our studies, people from the state univerisity, the University of Eduardo Mondlane, and the WHO people to finish up my ongoing project (no longer!!). And for most of the week, I did work on my projects from up here, sampled the cuisine of Maputo, read a lot of the news, took a lot of walks, and spent every day running this way and that just to meet the right people at the right time. It was great, because it prepared me well for the second week! The second week I spent at a conference of the African Health and and Information Library Association (AHILA). It was interesting. Although we talked more about Hinari and the Virtual Health Library than I ever thought I would like to in my life, it was still worth it. To give you picture of how things went, on the first day, someone asked me...."Are you a Liberian?" I responded, no, I'm not. A Liberian?? That's what I thought they had said. Turns out, no, they had asked me if I was a librarian! Obviously. I think I was one of the 4 non-librarians there!! The conference was interesting, done in 3 languages. Since I had a mozambique tag and translated a few times, at one point, someone also mentioned that I spoke english perfectly. Well, I said, I suppose that for an american that can be quite a complement!! Yes, so it was international certainly, but more geared towards librarians on the African continent. Good info for the college an definitely something I'd never thought that I would do....um, ever.

Sometime in the last week, I ended up finally getting in touch with the Department of Community Health at the UEM. I had asked to sit in on a lecture to compare teaching styles. They said yes. Except that I misunderstood. They thought that I wanted to give a lecture. I received a message stating, Ms. Kumar, you will be giving a lecture on medical statistics at 8am on Friday. I immediately called them back, them obviously not understanding that I was NOT a statistician!! They did, but were sorta hoping anyways!! In the end, we came to a compromise. I would give a lecture on the use of qualitative research in the health sectore....I prepared and prepared myself for a 40 some odd person lecture of 2nd year students.

Wow, was I wrong. I met first with the professor from the department. Being a UK MD/PHD, of course, he wanted to know my qualifications. Of course, I started sputtering and sweating profusely. And kicking myself for not wearing my hair in a bun and for not ironing my shirt a little bit better. He seemed satisfied and moved on to look at my powerpoint. He nodded, no comments, said it would be fine, some of them were a little bit slow. Can you imagine? Basically, he was telling me that I was slow in some sort of way, but that it would have to do for this late afternoon Friday lecture.

So, we go to the lecture. There turn out to be no, not 40. But 110 second year medical students. GASP. I sit in on the last end of their lecture. The MD/PHD hands me a stick!!! What, in the world, I thought, could this be for??? It turns out, it was for pointing. Phew, I was imagining my grandfather, the headmaster, and what use he might have put such a stick to use for back in the colonial days. Good thing it wasn't for that.

Anyways, I started talking and didn't stop. There were questions, discussions, and even the big guy seemed somewhat excited. Another elderly timer in the back also gave a long comment; comments I always take are good signs. Especially in Mozambique, where often times a debate, ends up more as a series of comments, neither directed here nor there.

At the end of the lecture the students clapped and thanked me. I think overall it went very well, especially because big guy 1 and 2 asked me in the end, how they could get a fulbright scholar to work at their university. I did of course explain, that they should really get a senior scholar of course, and they agreed! HA, guess I wasn't that good! After that lecture, I stuffed my face with matapa at a friends house made in the Nampula style with soft boiled cashews and coconut....it was so delicious that I ate way too much and had to spend the night at her house...Anyways.......

I am rambling, that was my last Friday.....and now, well, I should get back to the present in Beira and the info I have to get through before I can show my face at the college....this Sunday I leave to go to Nampula and Pemba for the second phase of our baseline study.....will fill on that before I head out and will send some Beira pics on Sundayish......TGIF!!!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Celebrity...in Malawi?

Last year, my friend enticed me to take some pictures to be on a billboard in Malawi for the National Bank. They wanted to show that foreigners used their services, so they said. I reluctantly agreed, thinking that nothing would ever happen. I did, in fact, receive some payment for the service, and the photographer assured us that the billboard would be up in 2 weeks near the major airports, one in Blantyre and one in Lilongwe. 2 months elapsed and I never saw the pictures. Ah well, I thought, I didn't care to draw any more attention to myself anyways. Then comes this year. In June a classmate emails me and tells me he was pleasantly suprised to see my friend and I on a billboard when going to Zambia. Another friend driving from Mozambique in August confirmed the same story. And finally, I received the picture this morning. It is confirmed, I am a celebrity in Malawi at relatively small border crossings...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tofo Part 2

Okay, this is a short blog post because am on cup 2 of coffee and have to start getting through my list of things to do in 3 days in Maputo, but hey, here are some pictures from Sarah's visit again to Maputo and our trip to Tofo, mostly!!!

Tofo Round 2