Hey hey hey!
I’m sitting at a nice restaurant eating a delicious “Dukka” (aka chicken) burger at the Johannesburg airport, awaiting my flight to Melbourne (this was obviously posted much later). Turns out I’ve got 2 hours to kill, and I was smart enough to bring my South African plug adapter (for once), and they’ve got plugs. So I figured, why not provide a little update on my happenings? It’s only been 2 weeks since my last update, but I feel like so much has gone on since then!
Well first, the Baylor Annual Christmas Party went great! We’d been planning it for almost 3 months, and our hard work really paid off. The kids at the clinic look forward to it every year, and I’d like to think that we didn’t disappoint them. There were jumping castles, football matches, a traditional dance troupe (who were AWESOME), lots of food, presents and games galore. I wish I’d taken a bit more time to enjoy it rather than running around like a chicken with my head cut off, but the feedback was great. I’m super glad the hours upon hours of shopping and assembling gifts for 200 kids of different was worth it. I have to say though, seeing Christmas festivities when it’s 30+ degrees outside is very odd. Even in Southern Africa in general, seeing the Christmas decorations being put up, hearing carols (case in point: “All I Want For Christmas Is You” is currently playing) all seems a bit strange. But I’m not complaining if it means that I can avoid the snowy cold weather. I think I maybe be destined to live out my days in a hot country.
This week was also the week that my beloved roommates/SWB friends DITCHED me to go road-tripping in South Africa. Okay not really, it’s just that they were short-term volunteers and they fulfilled their 3-month contracts. I’m not taking it as bad as I thought I was, maybe because I knew I’d be doing my own traveling instead of pining at home for them. But still, I was pretty sour the week before, I think as my way of trying to deal with the inevitable. I’m starting to realize though, being here (or for life in general), you come across incredible people that you wish could be around forever—but life goes on, you cherish the memories you make, and you meet other people who you build new memories with. Yes, I feel very mature about that statement, but really it prevents me from losing my mind with the ever-revolving roommate situation I’m in. Still, I’ll miss all of the September (BOCFAA) crew very much—and especially S, M, A and K (SMAK, get it?), the coolest roomies ever. You da bomb!
I’ve been trying to immerse myself for the past week in my (way overdue) research proposal, which has been good. I was toying with many ideas back and forth, and was really struggling in seeing the feasibility of my topics. I’ve known since the beginning that I want to study stigma, since it’s such a crippling factor in the HIV pandemic here. It’s crazy, 1/5th of the population is HIV-positive, yet people can’t reveal their status to even their own family members. I’ve seen it first hand, and the self-stigmatization in particular is heartbreaking. At first, I wanted to study the idea of a “double life” – AKA how HIV-positive teenagers (since that’s my focus group) interact differently when interacting with other HIV-positive individuals vs. the general population. But since I’m not a Psych major, that proved to be pretty difficult. I’ve finally decided to study what’s being done to fix this major issue. So I’ll be researching the effectiveness of Stigma Reduction Policies (mostly at the national level, if they exist) for teens. I’m focusing on perinatally infected teens (that means those who were infected at birth by their mothers) in particular because I find that they face the same stigma even though the negative connotations regarding transmission don’t apply to them. But we’ll see how it goes. I was also lucky enough to attend Pediatric Kitso (the Tswana word for “knowledge”) training at the clinic all this week. Part of why Baylor is so awesome (and important) in Botswana is because as leaders in pediatric care, they facilitate trainings for medical professionals. So I got to learn about the medical side of HIV—the virus replication process, ARVs, the link between HIV and TB, nutritional considerations etc. It was the closest I’ve felt to being in school in a long time, and it was definitely the most Bio/Chem-related stuff I’ve dealt with since high school. It was super interesting though, and it’s nice to finally be able to have a more in-depth understanding of the virus (even though my post-test score would say otherwise).
I’m putting that stuff aside for now though, and getting my holiday on! Like I said in my last entry, I’m on my way to Australia for some R&R with the Mussa extended fam. At first I was indifferent about the whole thing, but I’m beginning to get really excited! And not even for normal things... I can’t wait to have a glass of milk (something I haven’t done for the past 6 months). And use a WASHING MACHINE with FABRIC SOFTENER. And dare I say it... I think I’m actually starting to miss Eritrean food. But in a few days, hopefully I’ll have been able to accomplish all that and more. Oprah’s also in Australia right now taping a show, and apparently it’s a big deal there. So if I catch an Oprah sighting I’ll let you know, although by the time I get to Sydney she’ll probably be gone. And there won’t be any rest for me when I get back, because then I’m off on another trip to Zambia! I’m hitting up Lusaka for a few days (where hopefully I’ll see Alicia!), then going down back to Victoria Falls, and finally Chobe Nature Reserve, one of the best places for safari in the world. I won’t be back to work till the 5th of January, and will probably have sporadic internet access until then. So to all friends/family/lovers/foes who are reading this, I wish you all the best for the holiday season. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and catch you in 2011!
P.S. I can now say I saw a world leader... while at that Kitso training, who's walking out of the conference centre while I'm going in, than the freaking president! That was pretty exciting. I've heard he's low key and stuff, but it was still awesome to see. I gasped like an idiot, but luckily I don't think he heard me. Score!