This first full week at work has been one where many administrative tasks had to be done before my study could be officially initiated. At MLW (Malawi-Liverpool-Welcome Trust), this translates into a lot of one-on-one sit down meetings with the departments for orientation and acquiring a physical signature on a sheet of paper. I spent most of my days in 1-2 meetings, and the rest of the time completing paperwork. I count it a success because several accomplishments occurred this week:
- 1 year after I started application and after many amendments, my study was approved by IRB/Ethics, stamped June 2017.
- Hired a study research nurse, Madalitso, and together we interviewed and hired a field worker, Elizabeth.
- Got lab access (after 5 meetings) and moved into the lab and placed all the stuff I had brought into a desk drawer and shelf.
- Mountains and boatloads of paperwork are done.
- Mada translated and I finalized our study consent forms, questionnaires, and information sheets.
- Inventoried all the reagents and lab stuff I ordered more than 3 months ago to have delivered here!
Lessons I have learned:
- As with many places in Africa, things do not adhere to a strict timeline here. If something needs to be done, it will be done… eventually. Patience is not a virtue here, it’s a requirement.
- Several British words that I cannot say without laughing:
- Kitty- no that is not a cat, but a collective pool of money.
- Bunting- we don’t have a name for it… it’s the flags that people hang in celebrations.
- Monkey nuts- no that’s not a slang, that’s proper British for shelled peanuts.
- Malawians have a hard time reconciling how I can have a Chinese face but have an American “accent”. This is interesting because I think it speaks to the diversity of America in comparison to the homogenous populations in most other countries (European countries aside).
- Being uncomfortable is the norm for me here. I’m constantly uncomfortable because I am asking for help, navigating a new system and culture, or trying to do something on someone else’s timeline. And that is ok. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
I went to a Malawian step aerobics class on Thursday night with my housemate Jamilah. Cost per class was MWK 1000 or equivalent of USD 1.5. Even at this rate, the class only had middle to upper-middle class Malawians. It was held at the college of medicine gym and probably had 50 people standing in a square facing each other, lined behind our wooden steps. I found myself trying to repeat a series of moves and steps and nonstop jumping and squatting while hearing Malawian pop music blare in the background. It was very fun and joyful. I am very out of shape. My entire body still hurts today… especially my calves— didn’t know those could hurt.
Anyway, I don’t have pictures from this week, but hope to take some soon. The day light is short and I spend a lot of time in the lab and office. Madonna visited our hospital this week, and dedicated a pediatric wing after her daughter. So there was some celebrations on the streets with dancing and the president was also there. I did not see any of this even though it was next door to us, but I was delighted to hear about it.
more on CNN.com: Madonna in Blantyre