Aparna in Mozambique

Monday, February 05, 2007

Settling in....

Hi All!

So I am finally settling into the swing of things out here. Just to give you some updates....

The first two weeks were my orientation at the college of medicine. The first week we focused on basic principles of public health in a malawian context and prepared for a survey in the rural areas. Over that weekend, we traveled to Mangochi district, which has one of the highest HIV/AIDS infection rates in Malawi. There are 25 students in my class, which is pretty big and we all went to the village to stay in separate households and conduct different surveys. There are only 3 others from other countries: one from Congo, one from Kenya, and one from Zimbabwe. .....needless to say I stick out just a little bit:)

My partner Mabel and I were stationed at a house in Namwera village, where we stayed for 4 nights. She was really my guardian for those days and showed me how to do everything from use the pit latrine to wear a chitenje cloth like a true malawian woman.

Thats right, we stayed in the village for 4 nights with no electricity, no running water, no soap for dishes (washing the pots with mud was great) and lived pretty much like everyone else. What that meant was lights out at 8PM when it got dark and wake up at 5AM when the chores started and the chickens cuckooed. I helped as much as my american self weak hands could. I scrubbed floors, washed pots, carried water on my head although half of it fell out:) and ate nsima with vegetables every day.....The hardest part was not being able to speak much in chichewa. To make matters worse, most of the village spoke Yao so I was totally clueless. I had to rely on my partner Mabel for everything from telling stories, asking for water, and translating my surveys.

I conducted through Mabel a survey on access to HIV/AIDS treatments (ARVs). They are free through the government. I interviewed 20 people and 11 were on ARVs. The biggest issue they faced was transport to the hospital for ARVs which was expensive. The health center near them did not have ARVs or really any drugs. Actually there was no staff there either so it was a bit disheartening. On wednesday, we went back to Mangochi district hospital and debriefed. We stayed just outside the hospital and I was shocked every morning to see mothers from the village waiting with their babies from 4AM till 4PM just to visit the under 5 clinic for height and weight measurements. It is really shocking what the hospital looks like. Once I get a better connection, I promise that I will send some pics.

So, on Friday I came back to Blantyre and finally started to settle into my life here....I am staying at the college as most of you know and have been overwhelmed by how friendly all my classmates and rotary friends are. I haven't had a dull day yet and my days and nights have been filled with invitations to this house or that place to see in Malawi....

This week I am doing a module on primary care and next week on malaria. After that I am taking two weeks to do special projects with my professor most likely on access to health centers as well as starting my dissertation work.

So, needless to say, I am having a wonderful experience thus far and look forward to hearing more from you all!

I also have a phone number now if anyone is inclined to call: 265 9 386 968....

Will write more soon!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great to hear you are doing well. How are the facilities at your college like indoor plumbing,electricity and food?

7:49 PM  
Blogger Fahmina said...

wow!!! that sounds so amazing Aparna all that your doing im so happy 4 u and i hope to hear from u more love u always Fahmina*_*

2:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Aparna!
its so good to hear from you. its sounds like your having a really interesting experience, it must be great. i hope your doing well. love, Marya

12:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I miss you but glad your enjoying, can't imagine that hair with no electricity or water, good thing you cut it!!! rob says hi too


3:59 PM  

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