Finding my footing

May 21, 2011

Since arriving in Haydom I’ve been working from 7:30 to 7 most days. I’ve been planning like crazy, running pilots, and finally made it out to the field on Thursday.  I had yet to venture outside of the hospital gates and spent most of my time going from my house to the lab. I am currently living with two anthropologists from UIC who have become my parents here. Crystal and Betsy make sure I’m taking my Malarone, keeping me safe, and helping me get comfortable here. They have been coming here since 2008 looking at women in the villages and their reasons for why they give birth at home or at the hospital. A lot of the visiting doctors and med students are working in the maternity ward. They are from all over; Norway, the Netherlands, the UK, the US, and Austria. The houses are nice and the food is more flavorful than what I was warned about (and still a step up from most college food).

The field was great and it was cool to look into the ways in which this huge project operates; its a very well oiled machine. I was very timid at first since I didn’t know much of Swahili or Iraqw but the field workers persisted with questions and eventually I felt very comfortable. They also started to teach me Iraqw so I can greet the mothers in the homes we visited to collect data. Their plan for me is to be fluent in Iraqw when I leave, but I’m not so sure my language abilities are that speedy!! They also introduced me to the tastiest local fruits called Mahhayhhay (ma-ha-ha, this is an Iraqw word) that have two varieties, sweet and very sour. I was so grateful they kept teaching me despite how much I butchered the words and I was more than happy to answer the many questions they had for me about the US and myself (my favorite was if I was married). The first day going out into the field I wore hiking pants, which lead many households to ask if I was male or my favorite from a little girl telling a field worker “I was really pretty but why was I wearing trousers.” Friday I was better and borrowed a skirt from Betsy. I keep missing lunch while out in the field so I am very glad I have packed power bars and granola (my housemates also have a life times supply of beef jerky). Jean and Esto both left Friday, which has made me nervous, but Jean continues to remind me that they’re just an email away. I will be spending my time in the lab with Caroline and Upendo, who are my age and already seem like we’ll get along great.

During the week everyone is so busy I hadn’t really had a chance to hang out with anyone except my new mothers at meals and at night while we did crosswords, but last night we played Phase 10 in the guest house with a bunch of the medical students. Also we went into town so I could register my sims for the internet and my phone. I also inherited another mother, Veron, while getting the sims, who is a friend helping with their (their almost always refers to Crystal and Betsy) study. I sent a text to my brother and dad; of course their immediate reaction was that something was terribly wrong. I talked to Steve which was nice and found out he got into medical school, which I wish I was there for in Virginia.

Today has been the best so far, mainly because I got to sleep in until 7:45, but also because I went out into the area to visit friends of mama mikah (mee-kah) (Crystal) and mama eli  (ellie) (Betsy). I got to take some photos and meet a great family with sweet adorable kids. Everyone I have met so far has amazing English, making the majority of people here fluent in three languages. Hopefully I will upload some photos if the Internet is fast enough. I have enjoyed every minute so far and I can’t wait to learn more Swahili and Iraq and meet more people.

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One Response to “Finding my footing”

  1. meroki said

    I’m so glad you’re having fun and being a safe monkey! I love you lots. Keep updating us!

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