29 November 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Most of the Americans from the Hospital (about 20 of us) went to the Phakalane Golf Course for a gourmet catered Thanksgiving dinner. It was really nice - turkey, ham, lots of sides and desserts. It was quite fun and made it a bit easier to be so far from family and friends.

(Tom, Julie, Craig)

(Julie, Patty, Richard)

Unfortunately no days off for Thanksgiving, which is OK because we are all in very high gear in terms of work. The hospital was supposed to open November 30 but last week it was pushed back to January 11. We are not ready to open, so the delay was wise, but it will still be a big push to make the January 11th date. We have lots of nurses yet to hire and train and supplies need to be distributed throughout the hospital.

I moved into my hospital office last week and that has been so good. I'm managing the medical library (among other things) and it is a very nice, big space with 8 computer stations for staff - which they are already using every day. It's gratifying. The internet connection is pretty good at work and there are no flies(!) which there were an abundance of in the temporary offices.

OK here's a picture of a very cool grasshopper on steroids I found in the bathroom of the temporary offices.

I actually love my job. I've been setting up trials for a digital medical library and have been doing a lot of networking, both to figure out how to establish a Continuing Medical Education program for the doctors and advance practice nurses at the Hospital and also networking in the community. There is no formalized CME program in Botswana yet, so I’m really working from scratch, although there are many people here quite interested in CME in Botswana, not the least of whom is our Chief of Surgery who was in Zimbabwe for many years and was very instrumental in setting up a CME program for that country’s doctors (although it took them 10 years).

It is the community networking part of my job that I’m loving most. I met with the Executive Director of the largest women's organization in Botswana to talk with her about possible collaboration on a domestic violence initiative. I also met with the Executive Director of the only Women’s Shelter in Gaborone, maybe the country. Domestic Violence is a very pervasive problem here and there is only one women's shelter, which can only support up to 20 women & children. Funding seems to be a big problem for all the non-profits in the area, perhaps except for some HIV/AIDS funding coming in from outside. About 5 years ago or so Botswana was designated a middle income country by the World Health Organization. While that is great and means the country is doing very well compared to other African countries, one downside was that most of the non-governmental organizations lost their international funding. Last night a group of us went to a fundraiser for the Women’s Shelter. And a couple days ago I was invited to an event in town to commemorate the international campaign "16 Days of Activitsm on Violence Against Women and Children." I heard I was filmed in the audience and shown on Botswana TV!

Things are definitely getting better here as time goes on. I finally got internet access in my apartment, which makes a huge difference in quality of life as does renting a car, which I did a couple weeks ago with Abigail and Jane. We live about 30 minutes (on a good traffic day) from the city, so getting a car was imperative. I'm getting the hang of driving.

If you ever want to use ALL your brain cells and prevent Alzheimers, forget about Soduku and try sitting on the other side of the car and driving on the other side of the road for a while. In traffic. And on round-abouts. The inside rear view mirror is on the left and the windshield wipers are on the left. That means often when turning we Americans signal our turn by turning our wipers on (the Batswana just aren’t as responsive to that as I had hoped.) And it isn’t just driving that is “backwards” – even my circular birth control pill pack runs in the opposite direction! Then there are Setswana language lessons which I’m taking 3 days a week. It is not an easy language. There are about 8 or 9 ways to make a word plural (I haven’t gotten far enough along to know exactly how many ways yet) depending on the prefix. Is there no rest for the weary?

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!!

(Photo by N. Chescheir at Sanitas)

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