I wish I could start every work week on Tuesday. That one fewer day of work really makes a difference. You get to Wednesday so much faster and then it’s all down hill from there. Sometimes just getting through Wednesday, even when you start on Tuesday, seems like a challenge.
We have our staff meeting first thing Monday morning but this week it was on Tuesday. During the meeting each team gives a short report of the previous week and we discuss challenges and other office business. The team started a rapid reporting system for malaria cases last year which is being piloted here for a national roll-out in the near future. Every nurse at each clinic in the area was trained on how to enter information about each new malaria case that comes in to the clinic into a cloud-based system on a tablet and upload those reports each day. We really want this rapid reporting system to succeed, so a team member has been doing a supervision at each clinic (11 total) once a month to compare the paper reports to the online ones and check on any issues and problems.
Our office is extremely short-staffed right now and the only person who is not in the field nearly every day is Ricky. Ricky was originally hired as the Research Manager, the role that I am currently filling in for, but it very quickly became apparent that he was not up to the task of managing such a large study. He got demoted to Reactive Vector Control Coordinator, but since that part of the study has been slow to get started (due to issues of importing the insecticide into the country), Ricky has been doing other jobs, including the supervision visits.
On Tuesday he reported that one clinic, Sachona, was not using their tablet to send information about their malaria cases. When I asked him why not, he said it wasn’t working. When I further probed to see what the problem was, he revealed that he hadn’t even asked to see the tablet, he just took the nurses word that it was broken and did nothing about it! It could have just been out of battery power, or data, but he didn’t even try to troubleshoot the problem and for nearly a week Sachona’s cases weren’t being reported.
There was nothing that Kate and I could do at that moment because there were interviews on Tuesday morning and I had a long list of other things to get done. But instead of going out with our teams on Wednesday, we had to go back to Sachona, 110 km from Katima, with Ricky to figure out what the issue really was.
No wonder I can never catch up on my to-do lists: I am constantly distracted by other problems that arise every day.
The good news of the week is that we had one outstanding candidate for the new Spray Assistant position, which is a good thing, because the training for the job starts next week!
Tuesday flew by in a whirlwind and it was 5:30 before I knew it. Oliver, Kate, and I headed to Kate’s place for our weekly Senior Management Team (SMT) call with the folks in SF and I cooked us a good dinner while listening in and giving my two cents worth.
It is always nice to share a meal with others and to unwind at the end of a long, busy day over good food. We all complained about work a bit and gossiped about our co-workers, and generally had a pleasant evening.
On Wednesday while Oliver was out with his serology team members, Kate and I drove out with Ricky to switch vehicles with the camping team, then went to Sachona to look at the tablet. There’s a large crack in the screen which makes it nearly impossible to use, so now we have to find a new tablet somewhere. I spent most of the morning in the car, driving around. Then in the afternoon, Kate and I drove around town, trying to find a store that sells a good tablet and to buy other things for the office. I swear I spend 25% of my time here just buying things. Good thing I got a travel advance before I left!
The three of us (Kate, Oliver, and I) gathered at Kate’s for dinner again on Wednesday and I made a veggie curry with chickpeas. Oliver joked that he already had his two best meals in Katima in his first three nights there. That made me smile.
Thursday was March 31, and my birthday. Kate found out about it a week ago and planned an evening river cruise for me. We left work at 4:30 and made it to the dock at the Protea hotel by 5 where our river boat was awaiting us. We were joined by one other passenger from South Africa and we motored upstream for an hour, enjoying the evening and talking about non-work related matters. We passed a place locally known as “hippo island” and saw a few heads sticking up out of the water. As we approached, they disappeared one-by-one until only two sets of ears remained visible.
It gets dark here around 7 pm so after an hour and a half we turned around and headed back. We saw a flock of bee-eaters at their nests on a sandbank and got a close view before they flew away. I wish I had remembered my binoculars.
I got to view another spectacular sun set over the Zambezi river, and this time I shared it with others. For pictures of the evening see here: Birthday cruise
We were each supplied with a bottle of water and a beer/cider along with caramel corn, peanuts and some crackers and we supplemented our snacks with grapes, dates, cookies, and white wine. By the time the cruise was over I had eaten enough that I wasn’t very hungry for dinner. We went to one of the two restaurants anyway and I had a bowl of butternut squash soup. Kate insisted that we get dessert so the three of us shared a piece of carrot cake and flan. It wasn’t very carroty and the icing was lemon flavored, but it was tasty. There was no singing or candles, but it was a great evening and I’m very happy with my celebration.