09.07.2012 - 14.07.2012
This weekend wraps up the first month of my assignment. It has been difficult being away from my family & the usual summer activities (pool, beach, softball) that I look forward to. But I have settled into a routine at the clinic and my evening activity of figuring out where to eat dinner. Eldoret is not that big and I know now where to go and not to go. I can usually buy dinner for $10-$12. I do not have access to a kitchen so I am limited. I know now that I don’t like Ugali (African cake) that is so popular with the locals. It’s a bland rice-type blog that can be as big as a large muffin. The locals pull off pieces and use it like a wrapper to eat vegetables with their hands. The average men here weigh about 130 lbs. So I don’t understand how they can eat this stuff along with sugary drinks and be so thin. When I told someone that I didn’t want any sugar in my tea, they looked at me like I was crazy. My coworkers usually put in 3-4 spoonfuls.
This week I trained the staff from the reception, laboratory and nursing areas how to complete patient forms using a digital pen. One-by-One had begun working with the Microsoft spinoff company Capturx before I arrived to create a 10 page form for each patient. The digital pen is used just like a regular pen. It captures writing on specially coded forms. Each page is unique and the pen keeps track of the writing on each form (e.g. page 3 for patient X). At the end of each day each pen is connected to a computer. The “ink” is loaded into the computer and imported into an Excel spreadsheet. What was written can then be edited. It’s pretty amazing that it can decipher both printing and cursive writing. We are only capturing data for the Fistula repair patients to send the data back to One-by-One for reporting. Five women from remote villages arrived last week. We will start recording data on them and begin going back for data from discharged patients. If this was my only job, I could come home next month. Next week I'll focus on the Medical Records System (MRS) for the other patients.
Next week I will goto the town of Kisumo which is a 2 hour drive. Kisumu is larger than Eldoret and located near Lake Victoria. A coworker from Philadelphia arrives on Sunday to begin his Pulse assignment in Kisumu. I’ll pick up some stuff that I forgot and Nancy delivered to him, and look for a printer for the clinic. It will be great to have someone close by to do plan activities on the weekends.
Ten Revelations from First Month in Africa
1. Hakuna Matata is not just a song from the Lion King, it applies to everyday life. “That 10:30 meeting we were supposed to have? Hakuna Matata. We will meet this afternoon.”
2. Cool weather can be found on the equator and I should have brought a heavier jacket. It has not hit 80 degrees once.
3. Cholesterol check needed when I get home. I didn’t expect to eat everyday like I’m living on a farm. Skim milk, margarine, and Egg Beaters don’t exist here. But Coke Light can be found.
4. Drivers here are crazier than Europe. Traffic lights are installed but it looks like they have not been used in atleast 10 years ago. Motorcycles on the sidewalk (when there is a sidewalk) are a common way to get around the traffic jams.
5. Being a minority is a like walking under a spotlight. I feel like everyone is looking at me but they really aren’t. Eldoret is not a tourist destination and the only foreigners are either working with the hospitals & clinics.
6. No wild baboons or monkeys only farm animals walking down the road. The reason I got the optional rabies vaccine was because I heard about close encounters with monkeys coming down from the trees like squirrels. But the only things I have to worry about are the wild dogs coming after me when I’m carrying a pizza back to my room.
7. Breathing at 7,000 ft above sea level is very hard especially when exercising. It’s no wonder that the Kenyan Olympic runners from this area are the best in the world. For them running at sea level must feel like breathing pure oxygen.
8. Newsweek & Time magazine are your friends if you want any American news. Thanks to the only TV news channel available, English speaking Al Jazeera’s out of Qatar, I know the weather forecast for Australia, China & the Philippines.
9. Kenyans love their cell phones and the ability to use M-PESA service to pay bills using text messaging is an innovative service for businesses that do not take credit cards
10. It’s great to be an American and I appreciate all that we have even more!==