Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Weekend Update (Aug 27-29)

This past weekend embodied all things Botswana: the prize cows and goats at the Botswana International Trade Fair, the 10km race that was actually 15km, the combi ride to the wrong side of town, and the Lucky Dube concert that went on until 6am. It was a big weekend for us Batswana.

First National Bank “10km” Running Race
Esther and I entered what was supposed to be a 10k running race on Saturday morning at Game City (a shopping center). As the race was advertised to start at 6am, we were there promptly at 5:45 and, as always, were the first ones to arrive. It mystified me how everyone else running somehow knew that the race wasn’t going to start until 6:45 and arrived right on time. And of course, the race started while Esther and I were in the loo. Although slightly discouraged at the missed start, we quickly recovered our optimism and ran with fervor. We were again slightly discouraged when the 10km race turned out to be a 15k race. One of the organizers pointed out to us as we were running that more people join if a race is advertised as a 10km... Nevertheless, we ran on and managed to each win a cooler, a water bottle, and a cap, and got our picture taken with the First National Bank mascot!

The Botswana International Trade Fair
Later that day, my Mom and I headed over to this week’s attraction, the Botswana International Trade Fair, where I believe everyone in Gaborone had gathered.

One of the prize winning cows:

The Lucky Dube Concert
The Daily News advertised that Lucky Dube, an older South African reggae star, was playing at the Blue Tree, and that tickets were being sold at the trade fair. There were no tickets to be found, but, unphased, Esther, Erin and I headed to the Blue Tree at 7pm. When we arrived, we were lucky to find tickets. There was a remarkable negotiation where we paid across a chicken wire fence, stuck our hands though the chicken wire to get them stamped, and then got an extra arm stamp for the car. When we asked what time the concert was starting one of the 15 guards replied, “Just now, just now”. So we headed inside and, as always, we were the first ones there. After relaxing for an hour or so with drinks, pap, and seswa (a boiled, shredded meat dish), we realized that despite our obstinate waiting, the concert was not going to start for us. We went home with big plans to return around 11pm, because then, surely, the concert would be in full swing. Sadly, despite our best intentions to rally, we all fell asleep, completely dressed. However, I did hear practically the entire concert from my bedroom between 3-6am. It was, in fact, terrific reggae music!

The Sunday excitement was a combi ride (a public transport minibus) for 2 Pula (50 cents) to the Broadhurst Mall. Chris and I mistakenly jumped onto combi number 5 instead of combi number 1, but the driver took pity on us and dropped us off at the right place. At the Broadhurst Mall I strangely felt that I was blending in better than usual among the Chinese street vendors, and had a pang of homesickness.

When I first arrived in Gaborone I thought it so odd when people strolling down the street turned to me, with big smiles, to say “Ni Hao”- apparently this means “hello” in Chinese. Being half Thai and half Belgian, I don’t think I look at all Chinese. But then again, I can’t tell the difference between a Kenyan and a Matswana (a person from Botswana).

A reader may think from my blog entries that I do no work, but my project team has in fact been making considerable strides. The study I’m working on is called “Tshedimoso” (pronounced tse-di-mo-so), which means “enlightenment” in Setswana- we truly have high expectations of our patients. The study is looking to enroll 100+ patients with acute (within 3 weeks) or recent (within 6 months) HIV infection. Patients will then be followed for 1 year with monthly blood draws, and their immune responses and viral diversity/evolution studied. Although there’s little incentive for patients to enroll, almost everyone who has qualified has enrolled. The study started about 10 months ago, but there are currently only 14 patients enrolled- acute/recent infections are just very difficult to identify. However, the new, larger Tshedimoso A-team (1 PI, 1 study physician, 2 nurses, 1 technician, 1 driver, and 4 Fogarty fellows) is set to “revive” this study, and our first and foremost job is to improve recruitment. So far, we’ve worked on advertising (posters, business cards, presentations, radio/newspaper ads etc), developing relationships with new recruitment sites, and concurrently the Fogarty fellows have been developing lab-based projects to analyze prospective samples. The work is sometimes slow, with long meetings, and meetings where no one shows up, but overall moving forward.


Anonymous Geoff said...

Hey Good Looking!
I am impressed that you are continually showing up early for all of these events. What was your time for the 15km (9.3mi) race? I am sorry that you paid for the reggae concert and were then not able to stay up to attend it... Any more pictures?


11:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, Melissa! Enjoyed reading about your adventures. Keep it up!
Love, Jo

2:04 AM  
Blogger Camilla said...

Dear Melissa,

Great stories! We love to hear how you are doing and we love your humorous observations about human nature and life in Botswana. It sounds like you are continuing your adventurous, athletic, dedicated life. Take care of yourself. I'm looking into coming to Botswana for spring break, 2006, Give our love to you mom.
Love, Camilla

5:03 AM  
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