Aparna in Mozambique

Sunday, April 22, 2007

On Travels and New Courses

Hello friends and family!!

It has been such a long time since I have written and I first of all apologize for that. When I last wrote, I had just completed a series of course modules (primary health care, malaria, and good clinical practice) that really changed the way that I was starting to think....and have given me the basic knowledge to look at the health care system in Malawi from an objective point of view.

I was then swamped with epidemiology and statistics for 2 weeks, which I found interesting but definitely not as unique as the last few modules. Not much more to say on that end other than 8-5 every day with additional evening sessions for 2 weeks was just too much class for me!!

After that, my dear friend Alyx (from graduate school in New York) and I decided to travel. Alyx has been working for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Lesotho for the past 6 months as a part of Global Service Corps Seeds of Sustenance Fellows. We met in Jo’burg on a Tuesday night at a backpackers hostel. I had arrived there earlier in the day and was so excited to spend the day at a MALL of all places...drinking coffee and reading books. At night, Alyx finally arrived from Lesotho. She had all kinds of problems leaving because the opposition party had staged a walk out from work and banned all public transport. So, she had to leave Lesotho and rent a car from Bloemfoentain and then drive to JNB. When we met at night, I couldn’t believe that we were actually together on the continent. I remembered just 9 months before meting in New York and dreaming about the day we would meet in Africa and hoping and wishing our work would take us there....and here we were. We spent the night eating in our room and just generally taking in the news of our lives with one another.

The next day, we went to visit a friend of Alyx’s who had been sick and again, spent the day at the mall, seeing a movie (starring drew barrymore and hugh grant although I forgot the name....something and lyrics) and eating pizza. Mmmmmm....just the thought of it makes my mouth water.

From JNB, we took an overnight bus to Maputo. Something I highly don’t recommend.....not just because it is a long ride. But for some reason, the bus leaves at 10PM and stops practically every five feet or slows to a roll for several hours. Why? Thats because the Mozambiquan border doesn’t actually open until 6AM. So, we got there at 4AM and basically just parked it. Another weird thing, they played the movie Little Man, which is quite possibly the worst movie ever.....over and over again on the bus.

We got into Maputo fairly early in the morning and Zaida, a cousin of Alyx’s friend FIlipa picked us up and took us for a tour of the city. Well, we only had 4 hours before our flight to Beira, but we did what we could and spent plenty of time with her adorable son. Yet again, we ate pizza but no complaints!

We got into Beira in the afternoon, and were absolutely exhausted....we ate dinner and then pretended to sleep but caught up again. I will save you the details of Beira, but basically, we spent our time at the beach. Clara and Filipa our friends there, also work for the FAO so it was great to hear about their work as well. We visited two rivers, the Rio Savane and Rio Maria, which are in the pictures as well. Our friend Fernando was our personal chauffeur and guide of Beira. He works on the huge ships that come in and is stationed there in Beira for several years. Oh, and we also got to visit the Catholic University College of Medicine. That is where I will be doing my Fulbright next year, researching traditional birth attendants (TBAs) and their possibility for integration into the formal health care sector. Ooops, forgot to mention that I got the FULBRIGHT, so exciting for me...will be here in Malawi until December and starting the FB in January 2008.

From Beira, we drove to Blantyre. Clara and Filipa were with us as well and stayed the weekend. Alyx and I then went to Zomba for a day to visit the Millennium Villages Project Office so that I could coordinate some work that I wanted to do with them. We then went to Ku Chawe Inn just to have a cup of tea before moving on. The next few days we spent in Mangochi at the lake (over Easter weekend). We met some AMAZING people. Such an interesting crowd really. Our friend Bill also works for the FAO and we had the opportunity to see his project in the field.

Bill lives at this place called Palm Beach and there we lived next door to an Afghan family of mother father and four beautiful daughters. The father works for an American NGO in Malawi and they have only been there for 4 months!! The girls love Hindi movies so we talked about that a lot....unfortunately I haven’t watched that many, they knew more Hindi than even I did...We were also neighbors with some expatriate South Africans and Zimbabweans. There was a guy from Israel who is building nets for a fish farm and another from South Africa who is building steel silos for maize storage. And a woman from Kenya who makes jewelry and trades. Needless to say, we had many an interesting dinner conversation.

From Mangochi, we came back to Blantyre....and then headed off to Lilongwe to meet ALyx’s friend Tyler who works for the Clinton Foundation. He spoiled us a great deal and we had massages while he went to work. The next day he took us on a tour of Lilongwe and to all the places to eat and buy crafts...it was good fun! Then we were back to Blantyre, but on the way back we went to see his project, which is building a hospital in Neno, about an hour and a half from Blantyre. The hospital is called Bottom hospital and will be finished in July, when former President Clinton will come to inaugurate it! Again, I was shocked at the current state of the hospital. The thing that shocked me most was the nursery for newborn babies that were premature. I have never ever seen such tiny babies. Some of them weighed less than 1 kilogram and many were very ill. Two babies that were in the incubator were just waiting to die and we saw one baby resuscitated two times in a span of 30 minutes. I also learned about a type of program called Kangaroo Mother Care that they are trying to implement at the hospital. Basically, they have a room right next to the neonatal area where mothers can hold, feed, and sleep with the little ones that are premature as a way to reinforce safety and improve the health of the little ones. It seems like a great idea but we only saw three women there.

Again, we were back to Blantyre for a few days and sadly Alyx went to Cape Town to volunteer with the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) for a few weeks before leaving to go back to the states. I miss her so much and as long as she is still on the continent, we are texting each other ever day!!

Last Monday, I started a module on Communicable Disease Control. I learned all about diseases that I really had never heard of...Onchoceriasis and Lymphatic Filariasis and how we can control new emerging infectious diseases from a public health standpoint. Then we had a module on TB. This was really interesting and we went into the details of MDR-TB, TB/HIV interactions, the DOTS strategy as well as the global burden of TB. It is really interesting to see how we have to come up with new strategies given all of these challenges in addition to the low resource setting of Malawi. It really got my brain working and I have been reading a large amount of literature on TB this weekend just so that I can wrap my brain around it a bit better. Next week I will be doing a module on HIV/AIDS and I am sure I will have a lot to share after that is over. It is clearly an important topic here and I can’t wait to learn as much as possible.

In terms of my Rotary life, I have been out of touch a bit with all my traveling and classes, but next week (after the module) I plan to go to a meeting in Limbe as well as Blantyre. I want to organize some health workshops at my friend Donna’s school with nurses from my program and I am really excited to get the ball rolling on that end. Hopefully the workshops can happen in June before Donna leaves to go back to Ireland.

I hope that you enjoy the pictures as much as I do...I know that they do my experiences here a lot more justice than my descriptions. All of the things, people, places, and projects that I mentioned should be up in the photos so have a look and send me some comments when you have the time.

Sending you a big hug from the warm heart of Africa!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

All I have to say is Wow!! As they said on Hill Street Blues " Be Careful Out There". Mike Casey

5:37 AM  
Blogger Tanya said...

Thanks for the great update Dapurma, the pictures are gorgeous, and it sounds like you are having an incredible experience so far! I am so happy that you are enjoying yourself and your studies while still being able to travel around. Best wishes and I miss you a bunch chica!!!

10:21 AM  
Blogger Andre said...

Pernie, what a journey.... You know I don't like reading that much, but I read everything, are u proud of me? Well, I'm really proud of you. You're on your way on becoming next Madre Theresa! Good Job!

10:55 AM  
Blogger Anne said...

Hey Aparna!! Your trip sounds incredible, and major congratulations on the Fulbright, how exciting! I'm enjoying your periodic blogs, it sounds like you're having some incredibly powerful experiences. Looking forward to the next post,

12:57 PM  
Blogger Alyx said...

Ap, I miss ya!!! Miss the coffee talks where we can pour over these thoughts.... soon, my dear, soon! In the meantime, keep the blogs coming! I'm trying now to compile my thoughts but I'm not brave enough to put it on the web! Have fun...lots of love, Alyx

12:06 PM  
Blogger Melina said...


I Miss You!

7:05 PM  

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