13 July 2009

HigHs and Lows...

Last week was…interesting.

On Monday, Roslyn and I went to KCMC hospital to help check in a patient from Shimbwe. We couldn't really do much because we aren't fluent in Swahili, but it was a great way to gain exposure to some of the problems in the health care system.

We met with our supervisor, Sarah, for lunch and she told us about plans for Tuesday. On Tuesday, we followed Sarah and Susie as they visited the homes of women to make sure they were going to their appointments to get screened for cervical cancer. On Wednesday, we waited for two hours in Shimbwe for a volunteer to take us on home visits. There must have been some miscommunication because he was in town the entire time. At 4pm, Roslyn and I went to a meeting in town for about an hour then headed home. On Friday, we walked up and down Shimbwe visiting the homes of more women. Overall, the week was incredibly exhausting.

On Saturday, I went shopping at a thrift market where there were many locals and headed to the weekly meeting at my professor’s house. At the meeting we had to discuss our highs and lows for the week. For some reason, I couldn’t think of any highs. But, in retrospect, I could have said that one of my highs was going to dinner with Jen and Ros’s host sisters Jackie and Glory and their house help, Uswili. Jen and Ros decided to take them out to dinner because Glory had to go back to boarding school at the end of the week. When I started to talk about my lows, I started to choke up a little. I was frustrated about not being more useful for Minjeni. All Ros and I had done in the last two weeks was write up a nutrition guide on hypertension and child nutrition. We were supposed to present the child nutrition guide at Baby Day at Shimbwe on Saturday, but we were told that we were not needed because there were enough volunteers.

My professor told me that I should learn a lesson from every experience. I know this, but it didn’t hit me at first. So, what have I learned so far from the NGO that I work with- there is a lack of structure and there are issues with sustainability. Foreigners come and take charge of the four departments, only to leave in less than a year or even a month. Our supervisor, Sarah, came to visit her friends in Kilimanjaro and fell upon an open position in the health department. Now, she is in charge of that department. She is a cool person, but I just wish she had something for us to do and knew what she was doing herself.

I think I only got frustrated because my time here is running out quickly and I want to be helpful in anyway possible.

The excitement I felt when I first came here is dissipating. And the last 2 weeks are going by very slowly. I have had too much time to think about my life (grad school, family, future endeavors, etc.) - it's quite overwhelming actually.

However, all my time has not gone to complete waste!
- I'm teaching myself Swahili.
- I'm reading President Obama's book Dreams from My Father.
- And preparing for my TA position in the fall :-).


1 week and 2 days to go….

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