Friday was just as busy as the previous days. Since he had scheduled some meetings, John skipped the conference that was still going on so it was the three of us in the two person truck again. After meeting at the office we went to one of the Harare city’s offices where John had to speak to with someone regarding using a room at one of the hospitals. The meeting did not go quite as planned because they wanted John to pay much more money than he thought it should cost so that was not really settled.
From there we rushed to another meeting at a different hospital only to find out that the meeting was cancelled at the last minute because the doctors running the meeting had to help with a typhoid outbreak that had just started in the city. We did get to talk to an infection control nurse who will be a great contact in the future so it wasn’t a waste. I also got to see the room that we were to have access to and which was going to cost way too much. It was practically a large closet and it was filled with junk and old supplies that we would have to deal with. It obviously wasn’t being used for anything so the rent didn’t make any sense.
Since that meeting was canceled, John and I were able to get a ride from Salome to another meeting at a different hospital. We met with some local doctors and two MSF (Doctors without Borders) staff and went over some of the MDR patients that had been reported in Harare the previous week. It was less exciting for me since I’m not familiar with reading chest X-rays and such, but it was very eye-opening to hear about these cases. I also got to see the BSL3 that is being built at the hospital with money from UCSF. It’s a great facility although a bit small for the number of samples that they will have but it has a long way to go before any culturing can be done there.
The conference that we didn’t go to in the morning was providing free lunch so we headed to a hotel to partake of that. I didn’t realize how many people were involved in clinical trials in Zimbabwe, but there were over 200 people there and many more people didn’t attend that day. At least some organization is providing jobs; the unemployment rate in Zimbabwe is 90%!
After lunch John wanted to go out to one of the poly-clinics that we will be recruiting patients from and introduce himself to the nurses that we will be working with. We went to a clinic on the edge of Harare where they see a lot of TB cases. Even though the downtown area of Harare is quite small, the city limits spread out quite far and it was a 45 minute drive out there. The nurses we spoke with were both very nice and incredibly well trained, even with MDR-TB. There are several other studies going on there so they are familiar with research projects. We spent about an hour talking to them and then had to head back to interview a potential research assistant.
The guy we were hoping to interview had car troubles and couldn’t make it that night so we had a few minutes to spare before dinner. I took a quick shower and changed which was great after another hot day of running around.
Originally John was going to take a bunch of people out to dinner but then he was invited for dinner at the home of a master’s student he knows well. Her family was happy to cook for some others so Salome, Tish (another master’s student) and I were able to join as well.
Lucy and her family live in a very nice neighborhood in Harare and must be quite well off since they own 5 cars and a huge house. It was incredibly nice of them to have us all over and they cooked a feast for us.
I have to mention a bit about the food here. Zimbabweans love meat; any kind of meat but especially beef. This will pose a bit of a challenge for someone like me who eats meat very rarely and doesn’t eat red meat at all. Luckily they also eat vegetables so I was able to fill up on butternut squash, broccoli, and mushrooms. Their traditional staple is called sudza and it is ground corn porridge-like dish that is served at every meal. It is the same as pap, if you know what that is. They also really like dessert here. Custards and sweet breads are very popular as is ice cream and Jell-O. I will have to be careful about the desserts.
Once again we got home after 10:30 and I didn’t get to bed until after midnight. Hopefully things will calm down a bit and I’ll get a bit more free time.