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Friday is not a short day

Posted by on June 20, 2011

It’s difficult to do work that involves talking to people on Fridays because afternoon prayers are extra long and all of the men go to the mosque for 2-3 hours. We didn’t have too much to do on Friday and didn’t have any food at home for lunch so we decided to go to the office early and leave before noon. We should have known better.

When we got to the office one district supervisor was there, bringing in data for 50+ malaria cases from the previous two weeks. Usually the district supervisor only comes in once a month, but there were so many malaria cases that they ran out of money in several of the health facilities and couldn’t enroll any more patients because they could not compensate them correctly. Tanya and I looked at the data and prepared the voucher to get the money while Jaclyn dealt with some computer problem she was having.

As soon as that district supervisor left, another arrived with 60+ cases and the same problem of no money. We started the whole process over again.

We had a meeting scheduled for 11 am with the head of RTI (Research Triangle Institute) who is based in Dar Es Salaam, but was in Zanzibar for two days. At 11 he was not ready for the meeting so it got pushed back until 11:30. We met with him for over an hour and during that time I got really hungry. The meeting was also upsetting because he made it clear that our advisor from UCSF did not actually communicate with him at all about this other project we were supposed to work on.

In order for our summer to be really meaningful and for the study to continue, there has to be an easier and cheaper way to record where a patient lives. In the US we call this an address. There are no addresses in Zanzibar so our advisor wants us write a protocol to give everyone on the island a unique household identifier number, essentially an address. It’s a really important thing to do but since hearing about this I have been skeptical that 4 students who know nothing about Zanzibar could write a feasible protocol in eight weeks while doing the other projects as well.

Our conversation with the head of RTI in Zanzibar confirmed my suspicions. He and his team have been working on this project for more than two years now and the first system they came up with and piloted completely failed so they are in the process of drafting a new proposal and working with the different government ministries to roll out household identifier numbers. He told us that we could help write protocols if we want to but I feel that I would only be a hindrance in the process because I don’t know much about the culture here and would rely on his team a lot. I left the meeting feeling like I wasted that poor man’s time and was upset that our advisor did not look into this situation more before sending us off on this task.

By that time it was after 1 pm and my stomach had been growling for half an hour so Tanya and I went to a local restaurant to get some lunch while Jaclyn stayed in the office trying to get her computer to work. The place we went to didn’t have a menu so we just asked for rice, curry and vegetables. The food wasn’t great but it was fast and super cheap—only $1.30 for lunch!

After eating I felt much better and was ready to finish printing the data collection sheets we needed for Monday. By the time we finished organizing the cars, drivers, data sheets, and ourselves for next week it was 4:30 and we were all exhausted. Everyone else had gone home for the weekend so we finally called it a day.

Since we were so tired, we didn’t feel like cooking dinner so we went to Mbweni Café down the street where we had gone the night before. On Fridays they have a buffet dinner with two beers for ~$7.50. The grilled vegetables were good and the pasta tasty but the rice had mayonnaise in it which tasted funny and the French fries were not cooked enough. I passed on the beef and liver. It was a decent value and I left feeling full although I wouldn’t go back unless I was desperate.

In the evening we watched some ridiculous TV shows from the US then went to bed.

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