Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Early Days

Sorry - another long post, but the internet has been down for hours so I've had time to write.

It’s been a few more days here and I’m feeling surprisingly settled. I survived the weekend doing mundane things like trying to get my cell phone working and visiting the mall and buying a street map. The cell still is a problem, but I now feel like a bona fide mallrat. I made another visit to the nice grocery store and picked up some items, but the key is to remember to buy only what I can carry home. This means that heavy items like water, I buy from the closer, but not as nice store. I prefer to buy fruit, veggies and dairy from the nicer, further store. I still haven’t bought any protein items to cook as I’m not thoroughly confident in the raw food here yet. I also have to remember to somehow shop for the week as a quick run out after work is out of the question.

My sleeping patterns are still a bit off, so I haven’t been waking up until about 6:30 am - that’s when I’m usually in the office! I haven’t quite gotten on track yet and find that I’m wide awake around midnight (5 pm EST) and have trouble falling asleep. I finally do around 3, wake up a few hours later and am exhausted for the first part of the morning. It’s getting better, and I suspect by next week, I’ll be back to my normal poor sleeping habits.

Mornings are a bit of a challenge. First, I have to remember to turn on the hot water heater about 30 minutes before I want to take a shower and then I brush my teeth using bottled water. I eat breakfast at home, then get picked up at 8:15 for the short ride to pick up Erik and then to the office. Everyday we seem to take a different route however, and when I asked the driver, he gave a hazy answer. I think some days, he’s just not in much of a hurry and wants to chat longer. Today he was excited because he heard that McCain was up a few points in a poll.

My manager, Kate, arrived yesterday after being in Zambia for the past week. She’s very nice and thrilled that both Erik and I are here to assist her. The funds provided by the Gates Foundation have established ACTwatch, a program to conduct surveys in eight African and Asian countries around access to malaria medicines, cost and distribution. The first surveys are about to start now, and will be conducted regularly over the next five years. This survey is designed to get a lot of data and can be complicated in terms of understanding how the medicines are dosed. Each country does things differently, and the familiar US sterile drugstore is a rare thing in developing countries. There are some government regulated dispensaries, but it is not unusual to find someone selling medicine (real, fake and traditional) from their home or bicycle. Not only do the interviewers ask about the therapies and dosages themselves, but they also note their observations in terms of what the roof and walls of the “shop” are made from. First however, the interviewers have to be trained. My initial task is to take the learnings from the primary set of training sessions and develop a comprehensive, consistent set of documents that will be posted on the ACTwatch website to which the survey administrators can refer back.

That’s all well and good, except that Internet access is a bit sketchy. Today, the net has been down for hours, pretty much grinding my work to a halt. I’ve learned the hard way that if I find something I need on the net, to copy it temporarily somewhere so I can have it handy later. While I wait, I am spell-checking some documents, specifically for drug names. It’s hard without internet access and I wish I had thought to ship my reference books. Thanks to my colleagues, they will be on their way soon, as well as any other resources they can contribute. I’m glad I brought my Strunk & White though, as I have a feeling that will come in very handy.

The day ends about 6:15 pm, when it becomes too dark to see in the office anymore (remember, Barclays took all the ceiling fixtures!) Our move date is Sept. 25 and although the new office doesn’t have some of the amenities we have here (tea and chapatti ladies), it does have overhead lights. I suspect this will be about the same time our Pfizer offices move, so don’t think that I’m getting away easy. Alex then drives us to our homes and we’re in for the night. I go to the gym (I don’t think the pool is going to be an option), make some dinner, turn on the TV and connect back home. It’s not that different from life in the US, except I can’t go back out.

I finally figured out how to get TV channels in more clearly, so I actually have quite a few options. There’s BBC and CNN, as well as lots of American and Australian shows and two movie channels. Shows are a bit dated, but I had some catching up to do, anyway. My early favorite is a Spanish telenovella, The Two Faces of Ana. Although it’s dubbed (poorly) in English, the actor’s expressions are priceless, but I still haven’t figured out which character Ana is.


VANormans said...

It's great living vicariously through you, as we live our quiet lives here in the States - although the presidential campaigns do provide some comic relief! Glad to hear you're settling in. Sounds like you'll have plenty of time to read in the evenings. Are there English libraries/bookstores about or do you need reading material? Let us know,
Diane & Jim

Meet Melida said...

Hello Marge,
Wonderful to read your adventures from so far away!
Keep the pictures coming as well, what does it look like on the street, in the market, etc.? Take good care.

Julie Rackliffe Lucey said...

Yes, more pix!
And do tell what we can send in care packages, and to where. Madeleine would love to send mail to Africa!! Did you see any lions yet?

Marge said...

Right now, I'm prett well set for anything I need. There is a good bookstore close by, and I had shipped quite a few books ahead, as well. As soon as I figure out my mailing address, I'll let you know.