Posts Tagged ‘public health’

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Sara: busy week in Otavalo

November 21, 2011

I figured I would update everyone on whats going on in life right now, it seems like its been awhile! I am still at my internship in Otavalo in the Hospital, I have been observing doctors and nurses in Emergency, Surgery, Gynecology, and the Birthing Center and I will be going to Internal Medicine and Pediatrics in the next 2 weeks then I head back to Quito for a week then off to Bolivia! Time is sure flying by!

This week was crazy, a friend and I did tons of things! On Tuesday we went to an indigenous healing center where we got “cleaned with an egg.”  The egg is used in indigenous medicine to diagnose illnesses, my cleaning said that I have a little pain, but other than that I was a very healthy person. We also hiked up to an exposition building that is shaped like a hummingbird (the national bird), but we got to see a lot of original artwork by an artist from Otavalo.

This weekend though a friend and I stayed in Otavalo instead of traveling to see all that we could here. On Friday we went out to dinner and then to my host dad’s birthday party where we sat and talked forever with my host family and friends. Then we woke up at the crack of dawn (6a) to go the animal market.  Here all the people come from all around the city and country to sell their animals, there were tons of pigs, bunnies, puppies, chickens, roosters, cows, calfs, bulls, guinea pigs, cats, ducks, llamas, alpacas, goats… everything! I have a few pictures attached. Then after that we went to the food market and the artisan market where we got some more souvenirs and did a little people watching. It was a great time!

On Sunday Shelby and I went to a laguna, which a lake formed by a volcanic crater.  We even took a boat ride around the lake and learned all about it. It was really beautiful to see, we hiked to the top of one of the nearby hills to get a great view of the lake.  To get there we took a camioneta, which is a pick-up truck taxi where we sat in the bed of the truck. It was fun! After that we went to this little house on the outskirts of Otavalo where we got full body massages, it was amazing.

This coming week I am only in Otavalo for 2 days, I head back to Quito on Tuesday night for a workshop at my school and then I am heading to Cuenca, a little artisan city in Ecuador for Thanksgiving. I am super excited, it is the last place I wanted to travel to while I am here! 

Jambi Huasi - The egg cleaning The Hummingbird building Animal Market - Guinea Pigs Animal Market - Cattle Animal Market - Llamas Animal Market - Ducks Animal Market - Carrying Chickens Animal Market Food Market Meat Market Artisan Market - Jewelry  Lake - Shelby and I Lake Lake - on the hike 

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Mia: Cute kids and nasty viruses

November 3, 2011

So as I type this I’m literally surrounded by cute but screaming watoto (children) at the school I’m interning at for the next 5 weeks. They’ve never seen a computer before, they’re fascinated. I’ve actually been here for about 1.5 weeks, and a lot has happened, so I’ll try to make this brief (and organized!)

Sunday: Arrived at hut compound, met family, and realized I don’t have a pillow or a door. 

Monday: Host sister (also boss), took me all over town to her school, the clinic I work at on Wednesdays, the HIV clinic I go to support group meetings at, and the school for deaf children that I lecture at on Fridays. Whew, long day. 

Tuesday: All day at the school…I realize that teaching preschoolers is much harder than it looks. Props to all pre-K teachers, it takes a LOT of patience. 

Wednesday: First day at the lab in Ambira. They showed me around, and I took names and information for each patient as they pass through (and get hit on incessantly by lab techs. Gotta love Kenyan men!)

Thursday: All day at Alice Hope again, this time in ECD 2. Trying to teach someone how to draw numbers correctly is also harder than it looks. 

Friday: Rough day. Started off with a pikipiki accident (nothing serious), I get to the school late, and then I get lost on the way to the deaf school, Sega. I arrived 45 mins late for that, and then went home after teaching. That night I was bitten by the watchdog of the compound…thankfully it didn’t break the skin because I never got rabies shots. 

Saturday–Tuesday: Sis and I go to Nakuru to see her husband and children, and get groceries for the month. On Sunday we went to a Jehovah’s Witness service (interesting), and watch some movies (they have a TV!!!). On Monday we went to the market and get enough vegetables for the month, and the on Tuesday we fit it all on the 8 hr bus ride back to Ugunja. I honestly didn’t think it was all going to fit, and neither did Lilian, but 6 boxes later we were happily boucing down the road home! That is until we came upon a traffic jam caused by not 1, but 3 semis stuck in the road. That took a few hours to fix, but we got home before dark. That night, I went to John’s homestead so he could use the internet and we could have some mzungu (white person) time. And watch Gilmore Girls!

Wednesday: Worked at Alice Hope in the morning, and worked in the lab at Ambira in the afternoon, this time using the CD4 machine and microscope to check for malaria. It doesn’t look any better microscopically…Also sorted though some spewtum and stool samples. 

Thursday: First talk to class 1 and 2 about HIV. We couldn’t find a banana, so we put the condom on a blue bottle. The kids loved that. 
This weekend I’m going to Kisumu to work on my papers and hang out with Chelsea and Kaitlyn, and hopefully wander around the coast of Lake Victoria. 

Overall things are going great, but everything moves so slowly here. Once the sun goes down there’s not much to do because we don’t have electricity. However, I’ve never seen so many happy people before. Everyone always has a smile on their face, and sincerely wants to know how your days is. It seems like the people here really enjoy their work, which is something I don’t see a lot of in the US. They also seem to value people as entertainment, probably because most people here don’t have computers or TVs. What this means is that you can get to know someone in a very short time, and entertain each other for hours. 

It’s certainly a different lifestyle, but it’s starting to grow on me. More updates as I’m able…electricity is fickle here.

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Sara: The Internship

October 29, 2011

So I just finished my first week at my internship at el Hospital San Luis de Otavalo, which is like 2 hours north of Quito. I live with a different family here, they are really cool though and have had tons of international students so they know the drill. I have a host mom (Alba), a host brother who’s 9 (Andres), and a host sister who’s 12 (Domenica), and my host dad works during the week so I haven’t met him quite yet, but from what I have heard he is a great cook and an awesome guy.

I spent this week in the ER in the hospital shadowing a doctor and investigating the situation of patient privacy in the hospital. It’s kind of a hard subject to study, but I am super motivated because I also will be writing a 20 page paper on it at the end of my internship.  But I have seen quite a few different things, I cannot believe how many people have appendicitis in the ER. It has been a really interesting experience for me though and I will be doing rounds in the entire hospital, so I wonder what the coming weeks will have in store for me!

Although next week I will be going to the Galapagos Islands for 4 days which I cannot wait for right now! I am so super excited, I will be heading back to Quito on Monday night and then to the Galapagos by plane on Tuesday morning!

Attached are a few pictures of my new house and the emergency room at the hospital,

IMG_1506 IMG_1510 Emergencia (3) Emergencia (5) IMG_1526 

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Sara: Banos and the move to Otavalo

October 26, 2011

This past weekend I went to Banos! It was so much fun, and everyone has been asking me what we did in Banos… the answer EVERYTHING! We got there on Friday night and ate some great Filet Mignon and then on Saturday we walked around the city, took a tour of the waterfalls in an open-aired party bus then hiked up and down a mountain to see the waterfalls, had a 2 hour massage and facial for only $35!, rented a go-cart, drove that to the hot springs, then had another amazing dinner at this restaurant called “La Casa de la Abuela.” Then on our way back to returning the go-cart we got stuck behind a 15 minute long funeral procession! Then on Sunday we went white water rafting (this is waaay more intense then a little river) with wet suits, life jackets, and helmets. We were in a boat with 3 guys from Poland which was super cool too! Although, the guide pushed me into the river and I had to get rescued by one of the Polish guys. It was fun nonetheless. We then took the bus home after saying goodbye to the awesome old couple that ran the hostel we stayed in and helped us with everything on our journey…we made record time back to Quito (3 hours).

But today I was up early and packed.  I moved to Otavalo (2 hours north of Quito) and am currently living with my new host family.  I have a mom, a dad, a sister who is 12 and a brother who is 9.  I start my first day of my internship in the Hospital tomorrow which I am really excited but a little nervous for!

100_1959 100_2021 IMG_1446 IMG_1466 IMG_1477 

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Mia: It’s the end…

October 17, 2011

…of the classroom phase of the semester! Our internship starts next week, so we have our Swahili finals tomorrow and Wednesday, and the rest of the week off. It’s been more than 6 weeks since we arrived here, which is hard to fathom. 

I decided to spend the last weekend in Maasai Mara (there are pictures here), and it was amazing. Well worth the cost, and we even got to step foot in Tanzania for a little while. 

As for the business end of things, the research proposals are almost done, and all of the research papers have been started! I’m not sure how much I’ll get done before the week is out, but I’m sure not a lot is going to be accomplished in the field, so I’m trying to wrap everything up. 


The new digs

I finally have more information about my internship- I’m going to be teaching children under 8 how not to contract HIV, and I’ll be giving special lessons to the deaf children at the school. I’ll also be working with PLWH (people living with HIV) in the community, and talking about health issues. 

I’m very excited about this, but it’s going to be hard to leave my host family. They’re really great, and on top of the warm fuzzy feelings, they JUST got cable and internet. Sad day. But at least I’ll have 300 channels to surf when I come back from my hut! 

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Grace: Toubacouta

October 15, 2011

Just to start off, I would like to say how much I love the country of Senegal.  The people here are so amazing, the countryside and beaches are gorgeous, the clothes are so cool, the food is delicious.  I could go on and on.  I realized last week that I was half way done with my time in Senegal and I freaked out.  I don’t ever want to leave! Of course I miss you, burritos family and friends, but I just wish you could come to Senegal instead of me having to come back there!

Anyways, this weekend our program took a trip to the south of Senegal, to a village/town called Toubacouta (it has enough people to make it more than a village, but I would definitely not call it a town).  It’s about an hour away from the village where I’ll be for my internship.  I can honestly say that this weekend was one of the better weekends of my life.  It was not only super fun, but I learned a ton.  It was both a vacation and field trip at the same time, and it was awesome.  We also did a lot of stuff, so just to warn you, this post is a biggun. 

On Thursday we left Dakar bright and early. The earliness sucked, but we got pain au chocolat and juice on the air-conditioned bus, so the situation improved quickly. It was about a 7 hour ride on the bumpy roads to Sokone, a village/town just north of Toubacouta.  Getting out of the bus was rough, I had kinda forgotten what heat was, but I was quickly reminded with the blast of hot air that bombarded my face and body upon arrival.  After I pretended to get used to the heat again (it’s actually impossible to ever get used to it), we sat down for lunch at the mayor’s house.  They made us like 6 HUGE platters of ceeb u jen (fish with rice, it’s delicious) and we maybe finished half. And then I felt super full, like post-Thanksgiving full, and all I wanted to do was nap.  

Thankfully that was in the schedule, so we hopped on the bus (with a renewed appreciation for air-conditioning) and headed off to the hotel for rest time.  The hotel was super cool, it was a bunch of little huts instead of rooms and it had a pool.  I passed out, and enjoyed sleeping in air-conditioning for the first time in more than 2 months (Ok, I’m going to stop talking about air-conditioning now, I promise).

Me walking into our hut at the hotel, enjoying the blast of cold air greeting me at the door (for real last time.)
After nap time we went to a soccer game, which was a lot of fun.  The Senegalese are definitely not lacking in spirit, and it was fun watching people rush the field and go crazy after goals.  It ended up coming down to Penalty kicks which always makes for an exciting game.  2 things noteworthy about the game: there were people in the trees around the field, which I thought was an excellent idea.  They had a fantastic view. Also, after every goal scored and at the end of the game, the players would go to the corner of the field and face what I assumed to be the direction of Mecca and bow and pray.
Soccer game (yellow dots in tree=people)
After the game we ate dinner, played a Wolof trivia game directed by Waly and Kourka, and had a dance contest.  Needless to say I did not win the dance contest.

The next day we got up bright and early and headed to the Poste de Sante (health clinic) in Toubacouta. We met the head nurse who showed us around the small building.  The paint was peeling off the walls and there was a distinct smell of mold in most of the rooms, but I could tell they were working hard to keep it as clean as they could within their means.  The on-site pharmacy was very meagerly stocked, and the pharmacist explained to us that the health infrastructure in Senegal is set up top-to-bottom so the rural clinics are the last to get medications, and never have enough.  They had a price list on the wall, and a the fee for child was equivalent to $3, adult $4, and this includes both the consultation and the necessary medication (this is a new system, they used not to be together).  The patients are guaranteed the medication they need if it’s on site, but they said that often the medications aren’t available. And they said that most people can’t afford the consultation/medication fees, and complain about the new system.  We also saw the clinic’s ambulance which is currently not working (they said it breaks down a lot).  This means that when patients require further medical attention at a bigger clinic (beyond the Poste de Sante’s means), it’s very hard to transport them.  It was really tough seeing how hard the staff was working (the head nurse lives at the clinic and accepts patients 24/7) but how desperately they needed help/supplies.  I could go on talking about this (public health really interests me), but I still have a lot to cover, so I’m gonna move on.  Oh and by the way, the Poste de Sante that I will be working in during November will probably be pretty similar.

Next we went to the Community Radio station, and they talked about the educational programs they do.  They talked a lot about how important the radio is in an area where literacy rates are low and people learn well through culturally-specific programs in Wolof (shout out to you, Dad!).  They said their most popular program is the one on agriculture.

Me dropping some beats on the Toubacouta radio, nbd  (just kidding, this was staged)

Then we went back to the mayor’s house and he talked to us about decentralization in Senegal.  Not gonna lie, I kinda zoned out during this.  It was hot, I was hungry, and there were lots of flies.  Difficult to keep my attention on a man speaking French and talking about government.  When he finished, we ate, and I once again over-ate.  I named my food babies (they’re twins) Ceeb (wolof for rice) and Yassa (name of yummy onion sauce).

After lunch we went to a village about 30 minutes from Sokone to meet with a women’s group.  There were about 50 (give or take like 25…I’m horrible at estimating crowds) women under a tree and we sat with them and talked with them with Waly’s translation help.  These women come from extreme poverty and are so poor that they can’t even afford the microfinance loans because of their high interest rates (these loans are supposed to help the poorest of the poor…flawed system apparently) so they came together and established a joint savings account to help each other have enough money to plant fields and establish a sort of insurance in case one of their family members gets sick or their crops fail or something.  
These women are amazing.  They all work long and strenuous hours every day in their fields to supplement their husbands’ incomes and take care of their children.  Even with all that work though, they said that there are problems with the saltiness of the soil, so their plants don’t grow well, they often can’t afford the expensive fees at the Poste de Sante (yes, it’s hard to wrap our brains around the fact that $3 can be expensive, but poverty is a hard thing), and getting their produce to the market in the next village is very difficult.  There is no way that someone could say that these women don’t work hard, or aren’t innovative and smart, yet no matter what they do, they cannot escape poverty.  It’s stories like these that really reveal the vicious unjustness of poverty and make me hate when people try to blame the poor for their situation.

After the women spoke to us about their group, their lives, and their struggles, they grabbed some buckets and gas cans and started playing music on them and dancing.  The woman sitting next to me, Mariama, grabbed my hand and dragged me into the circle where I awkwardly tried to keep up with their awesome dance moves.  There was one old woman who I swear never touched the ground as she danced, it was crazy.  And it was so amazing that even with all the hardships that they had just told us about, their response was to get up and dance.

After about 30 minutes of dancing, we reluctantly climbed back on the bus and headed back to Toubacouta.  I really wanted to stay in that village with those women for longer, but I reminded myself that in just a few weeks I would get to stay in a village for relatively long-term and actually really get to know the women there, not just meet with them for a few hours.  It made me really pumped for my village stay.

The inside of the bus

The next few hours were pooltime, dinnertime, blah blah blah, skipping all that.  That night we went to “downtown” Toubacouta (where the market is in the mornings) because there was going to be a performance.  I didn’t really know what that meant, but when we got there there were a few hundred people (again, this is an estimation…probably really off) gathered around in chairs, on the ground, and standing in a circle around 10 or so guys with drums.  All these little kids started running toward us when we got there and grabbed out hands and insisted on sitting in our laps for the show, which was seriously just so adorable.  I had a little boy named Abdou on my lap the whole time, and he was so cute.

Okay so first of all, the music was amazing.  I never knew using only percussion could make such great sounding music.  Second, the performance involved more than just the band playing, which I discovered when this giant terrifying white furry monster burst out and started chasing the kids in the audience.  The monster then acted out a scene (narrated by the drum music, which was super cool) of a folklore story.

Scary monster playing drum

At the end of the story, five girls and five guys started dancing.  And OH MY GOSH. I seriously did not realize the human body had the potential to move in the way that those dancers moved.  Those girls whipped their hair back and forth like their lives depended on it and it was soooo fast (Willow Smith would have been proud).  I don’t really know how to describe all the dancing, but it was so awesome.  Then this guy on stilts came out and started dancing.  Did not know dancing on stilts was possible, but apparently it is.  He and some of the other dancers made this like crazy upside-down human tunnel thing which another guy break-danced through.  So awesome.  THEN came the freaking FIRE EATER, which completely blew my mind. AND THEN this guy with really cool dreadlocks proceeded to walk on, smoosh his face in, and roll around in broken GLASS. Needless to say, it was an excellent performance.  One of the students in our program (also named Grace) will be doing her internship in Toubacouta with this troupe and we are all SO JEALOUS. (Okay, sorry for all the capitalized words, everything was just too exciting for lame lowercase letters.)

The next day we got up and put on our shorts (first time I wore shorts in Senegal, I felt so scandalous) and took a bus ride through the bush (we were off-roading it in a vehicle not at all made for off-roading which was interesting) to get to the national park about an hour away.  We were planning on taking pirogues (small boats) through the amazon-like mangrove canals, but when we got there it turned out there was no gas for the pirogues, so we moved on to Plan B.  Plan B was a safari at a nearby national reserve. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Grace: Is this MY life?

October 2, 2011

About 95% of the time here I forget that this is real life.  When I was walking through the streets of Saint Louis, a gorgeous island off the coast of Senegal with colonial-style architecture, I felt like I was in a movie.  When I was in a car driving on the beach down the entire coast of Senegal, dodging seagulls and crabs as the ocean spray hit the side of the car, I felt like I was in a dream.  When I’m speaking Wolof with my family or having splash fights with kids on flooded streets, I feel like I’m just watching someone else’s life happen.  But then I have these moments where I stop and realize that, wow, this is my life, I am actually in AFRICA and these crazy and awesome things are happening to me.

I apologize to my vast and highly interested audience (aka, my mom) for the lack of posts.  It has been suggested that I change the blog description from “various musings” to “scarce musings”. However, if you look closely you’ll notice that this is actually my eighth post here, which I would say isn’t so bad for 2 months. With the electricity being as it is, classes/homework being as they are, plus all the things to do here being so exciting, blogging has kinda scooted down my list of priorities.  But I know all of you (and of course by “all of you” I mean “Mom”) are dying to know what I’m doing, so I will try to be better.

Important life update: in 3 weeks the classroom phase is ending and I will be leaving Dakar and heading down south to a village called Nioro Alassame Tall.  I assume you pronounce that phonetically, but I’m not exactly sure how it’s supposed to sound. Anyways, I will be living there for 6 weeks working in a clinic.  I’m not sure exactly what my job will entail, but I get the impression that I will be helping with the small stuff, taking temperatures, fetching things for nurses, etc.  I will be seeing firsthand the public health system in Senegal, and I’m super super excited.  I will also be living with a new host family in the village, and I assume that my living situation won’t involve rotating fans, a tv, wi-fi, and a pizza/milkshake place around the corner like it does here in Dakar.  Waly (program coordinator) told me that there should be somewhere where I can get on the internet within an hour’s walk. So by that I mean that my already infrequent blog posts will become even more seldom, sorry bout it. But I’ll try to write lots down so that I’ll have lots of stories afterwards.

Oh, and this weekend we’re going on a field trip to Toubacouta, which is a small town in the south that’s about an hour or two away from Nioro Alassame Tall. We’re all missing classes on Thursday and Friday and taking an (air-conditioned!!!!) bus down and staying in a hotel (with a pool!!!!!). Very exciting.  I will do a really long blog post with lots of pictures from Toubacouta to make up for how horrible I have been lately. This is a promise.

So I just read my friend Anne’s blog and she describes everything we’re doing really well (my trip to St. Louis, what our classes are like, etc) so if you want to know all that, go to anneinsenegal.blogspot.com.  I realize how lazy I am being right now, but writing all that down in detail sounds way too difficult, and I have to go do Wolof homework (first test on Tuesday, wish me luck!)

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