Tuesday, May 28, 2013

African Time and American Music

Well, I have officially arrived in Botswana!! I still don't think its actually hit me yet that I'm in Africa, but I can already tell it's going to be an adventurous ride. When we got to the dorms today originally thinking that the 12 girls would be split up into two flats, we quickly learned that the housing people hadn't prepare for our arrival because our rooms were not ready and we later found out we would be split up into four smaller groups--where we would all share our flats with other study abroad groups and some UB (University of Botswana) graduate students. And while I was initially annoyed at the lack of planning and willingness to give us information about where we would be staying for the next two months, I'm glad I was given a taste of how relaxed the Botswana way of life is here on my first day.

As the dorm debacle was being sorted out we heard our first lecture from a cultural feminist (storyteller by trade) who really impressed me with her emphasis on the need to learn people cultural background before trying to understand their actions towards us or their ways of life, for culture is everything here in Botswana. Her lecture made me look forward to the four hours of lecture we have tomorrow, after which we will be touring the five clinics we will be working in! I'm so excited but really nervous about that, because once we get to the clinics, that means my research has REALLY started! I'm still ambivalent about being able to talk to the doctors, and about finding the Ministry of Health to get their IRB approval letter, but at least I know I'll be getting the true Gaborone experience if their office sends me around in circles trying to get this form signed.

I also found out we pretty much have two free weeks to travel, which is really great because it gives us a chance to visit the gorgeous beaches of Mozambique and take an 8 hour bus ride up to Victoria Falls! Pictures will definitely be included in blogs during those trips I promise.

Probably the peak of my day today was getting into a taxi tonight with our driver Bethel to go to an outdoor mall called River Walk and finding him blasting One Direction!! I just thought it was hilarious that he was playing such current--and might I say girly--music and that song was soon followed by a Kendrick Lamar song and Taylor Swift which my two friends and I proceeded to sing along to. Noticing our amusement, Bethel proceeded to turn up the volume time and time again for encouragement. It just made me really happy to be surrounded by such simple happiness driving with the breeze of Gaborone filling the cab and seeing all the rush hour action as we drove down the streets.

I keep telling myself that part of this experience is getting accustomed to the natural way of life here and finding my own rhythm and to not worry so much about unnecessary annoyances which is so far working out pretty well, but only time--especially African Time--will tell.

Monday, May 20, 2013

One Week Away!

Exactly one week from today I will be somewhere in the air getting ready to land in Africa for the first time! I don't actually think that this fact has actually hit me yet, as I'm still really only beginning to settle into the post-finals routine of relaxation. Of course my blissfully stress free week in Chicago has already been bombarded with Botswana Ethical Review Board woes. Let's just say that getting research approval from another country, especially via email is not an easy feat. Though I must say I think the process of writing my grant and getting approval for it has actually taught me a lot.

For example, in the beginning of the grant writing process, I hated and quite literally dreaded getting criticism on my writing because I thought that criticism meant that I wasn't prepared to handle actually performing a research study at all. However, through the almost 12 revisions and re-writes of my grant that eventually ended up getting approved and funded, I learned that it was those critiques that made me think more critically and comprehensively about the task that I am preparing to take on during my clinical work in Botswana. And while I am still in the process of trying to get ethical approval to actually conduct the research in Botswana, with their ethics committee actually using phrases such as "this proposal is not well done," I find my self calmer and more confident then ever that I do have the tools to make this research study happen and that is something that I'm would have never been able to say if it had not been for all that constructive criticism way back when in December.

And so in this last week I'm packing and packing away...well not actually packing yet, more like just packing outside of my suitcase so that piles and piles of rolled up shorts and shirts are sprawled across my bedroom floor. I find my self not wanting to actually put my clothes in the suitcase just yet (for fear that they'll be unnecessarily squished for longer than absolutely necessary--yes clothes have feelings too) and because I love the anticipation of the packing process. Imagining what I'll be wearing when I meet new people in Gaborone for the first time or what my living quarters will look like where I'll be unpacking all my stuff to live there for the next two months. It's all part of the preparation and excitement of getting on that plane and knowing that I'll finally, finally be setting foot in a place that I've been talking and reading about constantly for the past four years.

Writing this is making me more and more antsy to start packing, perhaps it's time to drag out the backpack and start filling it with tools needed to have a successful summer in Botswana--a place once filled with the remnants of an unimaginable summer in Thailand and Cambodia from last Summer.

As I look down at my wrist that still carries the white string placed on me at a Buddhist temple in Cambodia meant to bring good fortune, I can't help but wonder what little memories I'll bring home with me from this trip!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

3 Short Weeks till I'm Living the Dream!

As I'm studying for finals this next week and a half, I will be dedicating all my free time to all things Africa. I have locks to buy and shampoos to put in baggies and make sure I have packed all my hiking shorts. I actually can't believe in exactly three weeks I'll be stepping out of a plane in Botswana, my first time in Africa and the first of many more trips to follow.

I have always been asked why I'm so fascinated with Africa and I still don't have an answer, perhaps this trip will provide me with some insight to share upon my return. What I do know is that Africa is calling my name and I'm so incredibly excited and anxious to finally answer!

I have decided to write this blog during my seven weeks in Botswana in the hopes that one day I'll have an entire archive of blogs from all the countries that are calling my name. Here goes nothing!