Aparna in Mozambique

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Older and Wiser?

It is a sunny breezy Sunday morning in Beira...

Ok, so its time for the age jokes. Please start. Most of you know that my birthday was a little over a week ago. Usually I insist on cake, even though, gasp, I am closer to 30 now than I am to 20. Happily so, but still. This year I was in a town called Cuamba, which is sort of near to the Malawi border. Near is relative, meaning about 5 hours away from Malawi. It is in Niassa province, which is a sort of corridor, bringing transit from the port of Nacala to Malawi and Zimbabwe. It was very dry, but with mountains and mostly agricultural. You can see for yourself in the pictures. It took us 10 hours to get there on a train. There are no flights to Cuamba. But apparently if you drive it takes 5 hours. We did not have a car so not an option for me. On the way back it took 14 hours, so I guess that the way there was slightly better. We broke down two times. On the second break down, my colleague and I hopped out of the train and called a taxi. We were five minutes outside of the city by car but had been waiting for an hour.

SO, what, you ask have I been doing for the past 2 weeks? And why have I not been faithful to my blog? Well, for the past two weeks I was in Nampula and Cuamba, in the norther region of Mozambique. I think I mentioned that I am assisting with a study of HIV/AIDS knowledge, attitudes, and practices at the university. We did focus groups with students, professors, techical staff, and also interviews with management. This at three of the colleges of the seven at the University. Oh, and we also did 300 surveys. All of this data is for me to enter and analyze. All of the interviews and groups are for me to transcribe and analyze. It is interesting. Well, after a while, not so much as you keep hearing the same themes over and over again. But, hey, that is the point right, finding the common themes in what people say. I won't bore you all with the joys of qualitative research. I have to admit that last night I decided to squeeze in one more interview to listen to. It was 30 minutes. I started at 12:15AM. While my friends were out at the bar dancing, I was listening to interviews of people talking about their personal risk of getting HIV. And yes, I fell asleep, drooling, hair very kramer-esque on my computer. It was a sad sight. This morning I am doing much better. I've got the equation right. Coffee+Laundry Done+Blog and Picture Time+Break from earphones= Good.

Ok, enough silliness, back to the last few weeks. So yes, at cuamba, we were thinking about the connections between agriculture and HIV and what the college could better do to mainstream information for all the actors. We had a tight schedule. And Cuamba is where I passed my birthday. I had one drink, and a delicious plate of local fare, matapa, which is made out of ground cassava leaves with peanut powder and coconut milk. I then stayed up till 12AM just to make sure I maximized hours and watched ugly betty. The day was full and I filled it before all of this with a focus group with girls, a mixed focus group, and a film with students on HIV/AIDS. All in all, couldn't think of a better way to have spent my birthday. Thanks to all those who sent me warm wishes as well.

Moving onto Nampula, after the many hours on the train was nice. Its amazing what a nice city it is and again you can see the Portuguese influences from the pictures. Supposedly Nampula is the third largest city in Mozambique, but it is much cleaner and newer than Beira. It is growing rapidly and has a number of colleges. Ours has 2 different colleges, Education and Law. The Government has also started a second medical school there to address shortages in the north and central regions of Mozambique. So, it has a very fresh and young feel to it. And there is a lot of transport going through to the port as well, which incidentaly, is also near a great tourist spot, Ilha de Mocambique. Apparently there is an old fort there, lots of Arab influence, a Hindu temple with one very lonely guard, and a lot of problems with water and sanitation. UNESCO has made this a world heritage site. I don't have much of a clue of what that means in practice, but I think it will bring more tourists. My favorite parts of Nampula were the ethnographic museum. The gentleman who gave me a tour had been working there since 1967. He told me a story of when Samora Machel came to visit and talked about how Samora said that Mozambique has to preserve its culture because it is a part of the past and where they come from. Holland funded a lot of the renovations in this museum, especially after the war. Now, UNESCO gives a lot of money. I think restoring this musem even more would be a really good project for a museum studies major or anthropologist. Anyone know any? My next favorite thing was the delicious indian food next to my hotel. Not just this. I like the fusion of cultures in Nampula. Apparently a lot of people from Goa came over to be the sort of "intermediates." I can't complain because they left lemon pickle and very good shops for me to enjoy. Plus, this interesting mix of things makes people come to Nampula and that I think is probably a good thing in terms of tourism.

Ok, let me get back on topic. So, yes, I've had a real deal experience for the last month or so. But, now the honeymoon is over. I have to write up all my notes and prepare the report. I wish I had done this first, but somehow entering the data mindlessly was easier for me to do while in the field. This month at the college is the public health block. I came back to a pile of preparations for that as well. I checked out the block book and saw my name as lecturer, skills coordinator, and tutor. Whoa, a lot more than I thought that I would be doing. I am already uncomfortable being called Doutora. I am in no sense of the word a doctor. Having a masters does not actually make you a master. And now, I am a Professora. Really really a far stretch. Even two masters does not make me a professor. The students must be wondering who this person is. I am nervous about how they will react to me. Most people think that I am an assistant, still in college. And I am at least 5 years younger than even the closest colleague in age!! How am I going to explain that I am doing this because the REAL lecturers did not show up from Spain like they were supposed to? This is an emergency situation only!! In normal circumstances, I am not qualified to do this. But hey, I know I'm competent right, just have to get good at the role.

And with that, let me focus my academic energies for the rest of the day. I am working on the data, preparing to teach some literature search skills, figuring out just why public health people love John Snow so much, and trying to find some interesting information to lecture about Qualitative Research Methods in public health so that the 2nd year medical students who I am with will not roll their eyes and start drawing caricatures of me in their notebooks.....Please wish me luck!! Can you tell I'm nervous.

And one last request, some of you might have seen this article about Fulbrights being denied to students from Gaza. If you have the time, please sign this petition and write to your congressman/woman. I won't say what my opinions are, but just feel that it is unfair that people like me have this opportunity and others are denied not because of their merit, but because of where they come from. I leave it up to you to decide. http://gazafulbright.blogspot.com/

Here are my pictures from the trip, I hope to hear from you soon!



Blogger Latchmere said...

Happy belated birthday!!

and by the way I think you'll be a great professora =)

7:44 AM  

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