The university in Maxixe that we work with sometimes
First, I’ll give the basic run down of my week and then we’ll talk about some of the more existential stuff, that’s the fun part anyway. My week is pretty structured for not having a formal schedule or anything. Since I can’t sleep with all this friggin sunlight (hey, I’ve almost only ever worked night shifts, even before I was a nurse) I get up between 6 something and 7 something every morning, even without an alarm clock. My bucket bath in the morning is a great eye-opener and by the time I’m done with that I *almost* don’t need coffee… almost…
This week was the first actual week of work since Dr. Arlindo (the director of CoH) was back from Maputo (the capital) and the three missionaries were in the office. Actually, I think only two of them, Rose and Elfie, are missionaries and the third woman, Pastor Marcia, is local and works for Dr. Arlindo. Elfie is a nurse and Rose did a degree in health sciences and management. They are with the Methodist Church and Rose does the accounting and such for projects while Elfie works on developing the health projects that CoH conducts.
UNISAF Y Center Banner
The inside of the University. It is basically a giant O shape/square
here between 7:30 and 8:30 and we have a small breakfast together usually. I’ve most likely had two cups of coffee by that point. Dhairya and I take our stuff into the work room down the hall on the work-side of CoH and make camp for the day at the collection of tables down there. I’ve been working on prototypes of the materials and gathering information about the area, thinking about the realities of life here, and how best to integrate what little information I have collected so far into some sort of meaningful messages.
Maria, who works at CoH in a general-help kind of position, usually puts out a small lunch of bread and cheese, tea, and maybe some boiled eggs. We eat together and chat a bit, then back to work and maybe a meeting with either Dr. Arlindo or the public health team (PHT – Elfie, Rose, and Pastor Marcia) The official work day ends about 3:00 and they actually kick us out of the work-side of CoH so that Manuel (Maria’s counterpart) can lock everything up. Sometimes he’s a bit over zealous and locks things up like the silverware … or dishes… lol.
UNISAF Y Center Banner1
The Y Center banner out front to advertise a special innovation conference that was held this week onFriday and Saturday. It was supposed to bring together students to teach alternative ways of thinking about solving problems
most likely not done doing whatever it was that I was working on, so I move back to my room and use the desk in there to work some more. I’ve thoroughly spread myself out over the entire room and used every surface that I could. In fact, I’d probably go crazy if there was another person in here with me to share the space… it’s been a long time since those undergrad years when I actually had to share a *room* with someone (not just an apartment).
I’ve taken a few afternoon trips into town or across the bay to Inhambane, but I forget that it’s going winter here and the days are shortening. It gets dark so early – I wasn’t really expecting that since I’m used to the dog days of summer back home where the light seems to go on forever and humidity makes you feel like you are swimming to wherever you go instead of walking.
I usually go to a small café called Pastelaria Universal (Universal Patisserie) that has a Nepalese cook that makes great Indian food, but also ahs good pizza if you want that sort of thing. I’ve also had
This is a painting by the artist Magafusso, His daughter, Isva, has agreed to help me illustrate and translate some of the materials
fish (sardines as big as your hand) and their chicken curry, both really nice. The local ladies all sell vegetables on the street in whatever location they can find on the curbside, but there is also a more formal corner store that sells groceries of various sorts called Taurus. I might pick up some stuff there before finding a chapa (those converted minivans that hold too many people) home to Chicuque. The last chapa leaves around 7:30 or 8:00 (if you are lucky), otherwise you have to walk the 5km or take a taxi or a tuk-tuk (yes, the same three-wheeled kind they have in India) home. The walk isn’t that bad actually, I did it one afternoon this week and though it took an hour or so and I was drenched in sweat, the nights are cool and it’s bearable.
So that’s a standard day for me. As I said, pretty structured for not having any formal structure to it. You kind of have to do things by certain times because of infrastructure issues. For instance, I was at a café on Inhambane yesterday and asked what time they closed, which was midnight (wow!), but the last ferry
Me, working away with all my pens and colored paper and diagrams. If you've seen me work on anything, you know that this is just the start...
leaves somewhere around 10:30 or 11:00pm. (The times are not set because the ferries only leave when they are full, like the chapas.) BUT the last chapa from town leaves around 7:30 or 8:00, so if I want to pay only 10meticais instead of 100-200 meticais for a taxi, I have to get back over to Maxixe. Fortunately, Chicuque is quiet and it’s nice to walk around at night, especially since the moon is becoming more and more full each night. Last night it was so bright I had a shadow and didn’t need a flashlight at all. I went for a long walk on the beach by moonlight and listened to the cicadas, crickets, and waves… and thumping club music when I neared the next village, which has a more expensive hotel by the beach.
So that’s the mechanics of things, but of course, there is more to traveling than just the mechanics. When I travel, I feel like I’m dating the country I’m traveling in and we’re testing each other out to see if we fit. This process has gone both ways – meaning that I’ve come away loving places, but also really
Ok, ok. I admit it - theory is useful sometimes. I'm using the theory of planned behavior to drive the materials that I'm creating. there are different colors of stickies for different kinds of deliverables.
disliking others. I think there’s always a honeymoon phase, then things settle into a pattern and you get to really know each other. I’d say I’m probably still in the honeymoon phase, but definitely moving towards the settled stretch… This comes much more quickly when you’ve done this a couple times, but I can recognize that it’s still a definite part of wherever I go.
I was nervous getting through immigration (I hate immigration officers), but excited to finally be here. The newness of Maxixe and Chicuque, the CoH, the neighborhood, the beach outside my window, all are sources of happiness for me. I’m happy that I get to use what (little) Portuguese I know and to try to develop it a bit more. The chapas, the ferry, trying to manage resources in order to get through day to day life where nothing really goes the way you planned on.
Don’t get me wrong – there are things that I immediately find aggravating, like having to wait until the chapa is actually over full before we leave instead of only filling the number of seats it actually has. Or the fact that people mob/gang rush any
Mukambe feha 1
Me, conducting a focus group with the male health activists from Mukambe feha about 50km away from Chicuque, where I live.
point of restriction instead of queuing up and doing things in an orderly way. (I actually got shoved and almost trampled trying to get out the friggin ferry and just got out of the crush and stood there until they all got out the boat). My distaste for power and those who abuse it comes through whenever I see men with semi-automatic guns standing outside of banks to guard them, or that you should really know someone who knows someone to get anything done around here. (Not that the same isn’t completely true of the US, but at least I feel there is potentially/theoretically more equity in access than there is here where it is so blatant that if you are poor, female, foreign, etc. you are screwed).
When you accept things on the terms of wherever you are though, life is better. I simply wait until everyone is done pushing and shoving to get on/off into/out of whatever and then take my turn. I haggle my price and accept that it’s going to be higher no matter what, or shop a the grocery store where everything is more expensive. Some things you even come to appreciate, like the
mere physicality of life here. I re-posted something to Facebook a while ago about the problems of touch isolation in American men today and how it has become unacceptable to have physical connection with other people, especially strangers, except in very structured and prescribed ways. I’ve long felt that it was a problem and even chose nursing specifically because it was a high-touch profession that reconnected me to other people in a meaningful way. You can’t get away from that here. When you get in the chapa, you touch someone. When you sit, you aren’t just sitting, you are smushed into the other person so that two other people can fit on the bench that should fit three. If you’re the unlucky one who has to stand, you’re bent over with your butt in someone’s face, but it doesn’t matter, because the roles could just as easily be reversed. People understand. When people greet each other, there is more than just a quick hello, everyone shakes hands and touches each other. In the store, people crowd the register or push by you and think nothing of the American three-feet-of-personal-space rule. Sometimes it’s jarring, but if I think about it, it’s
I had a dinner meeting with Isva and this is what came out when I ordered. Apparently it is called "stone fish". I dunno.... it was yummy though.
ok. It’s what I want more of in the States, in a way at least…
I haven’t even talked about my trip to Mukambe-Feha or my meetings with people who are working on my project with me, or even the materials that I’ve come up with so far to pilot in some of the communities. Ack! I went with the PHT from CoH to a remote area about 2 hours away – most of which was on crappy dirt roads that we went down too fast in a 4WD vehicle. -_- We stopped on the side of the road and met with the local community health worker (only one) and 20 health activists (locals who talk about topics but have no other training) under a communal tree. We talked as a group for a bit, and then I took the men and had a conversation about what it was like to have malaria there. I need to know what their experiences are so that I can work with them to develop the materials they want. It was a good conversation and I’ve come up with a few things from that initial meeting. We will be
My neighborhood. Really quiet after the lights go down, unless the "hotel" down the way is blasting club music. -_-
going back this coming Friday and hopefully I will have a booklet or two to pilot with them so that I can get feedback next time we are there.
I’m also working with some local people from Maxixe to help develop the pictures in the booklets and to translate the materials into the local language, Xitzua (sp?) (sheetz-wa). Things are going well and hopefully I can get some support from the Ministry of Health’s Communications Department or the National Malaria Control Program. I have to see what connections Dr. Arlindo and Dhairya have in this realm, but since everything public health related in Inhambane province happens at CoH, I’m hoping that I have a good chance of connecting to people and resources. I’ll attach some of the prototype booklets that I am working on, as well as a few of the cards from a card game/visual aid collection for activists and CHWs. Anyway, this coming week we are visiting two communities – Nhamaxaxa and Mukabe Feha again. We are only talking to the activists in Nhamaxaxa and there is a health fair for all the villagers at Mukabe Feha. Pictures to follow!
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What a great experience Josh, are you there to work for an extended period?
I'll be here for three months, until August 15th. After that I'll be in South Africa for a week and then back to Philly.