Aparna in Mozambique

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…..


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