Things are moving "Pole Pole"

Pole pole is Swahili for "slowly, slowly"

In the past week, a lot of my friends and family have asked how my research is going, especially because it looks like I'm on a long vacation - which is definitely not the case!  

In my first week, I received the approval from the UMD Institutional Review Board (IRB) to move forward with the data collection. Right after I got the IRB approval, my methods and consent process changed pretty drastically, so I had to submit a lot of amendments. Initially, I was going to collect data prospectively in in-person semi-structured interviews. However, my co-investigator and the ORCI physicians thought a retrospective approach via telephone interviews will be best, and if doesn't go well we can incorporate the prospective approach. My concern centered around making contact with women who were screened from over a year ago, but I liked that the telephone interviews could would make it easier for women to participant in the study (assuming they still have the same number and are still living), but we shall see, I adapted. *fingers crossed*

Last week, I had the Swahili versions of my questionnaire translated by one of the ORCI physicians on Monday. The plan was to bring the nurses from the rural clinics together for a training on the protocol and pilot test of my questionnaire on Wednesday. I was all set and excited for this step because it meant that I would be out in the field in no time. However, neither of the nurses showed up and at the same time, I lost all communication with the ORCI physician; who has been serving as my preceptor and coordinating the training with the nurses. So I showed up to work Thursday and Friday hoping and waiting for something to happen. While I waited, I taught myself how to use NVivo, (mixed method analysis tool), put together my codebook, and worked on my literature review for the manuscript. Unfortunately, none of the nurses ever came and I never received any explanation or updates from my preceptor. As you can imagine, I was beyond frustrated. Between my strong frustration, an upset stomach, and homesickness I had a good cry Friday evening.

I updated Dr. Soliman on my lack of progress Friday afternoon, I was told that my preceptor had mentioned being on holiday (vacation time) but neither of us knew exactly when that started. It's also Ramadan, which could have something to do with the pace, but I'm not entirely sure. A few weeks ago, Dr. Soliman decided to provide an additional $2,000 to my grant award to incentivize the nurses and physicians to assist me and my project. I received the direct deposit Friday afternoon and on Monday morning I emailed my preceptor to tell him I had it and needed a safe way to withdraw the $2000 in Tanzanian shillings. Sure enough I got a response and a few updates. It seems like he's passing me off to another physician, Khadija, who is an MPH student at University of Nebraska, she is writing her thesis this summer and graduating in August. Anywho, he gave us the phone number of one of the nurse supervisors from the Magomeni clinic so we coordinate a meeting and training session. As far as I know, Khadija and I will be going on Thursday but I do know if that is set in stone yet. I'm also still waiting for meet with the Temeke nurses as well so I can finally get the ball rolling. I'm getting nervous about the timing, I've spent a good chunk of my time waiting to start.

However, on a positive note...

I found out that my abstract on adult male HPV vaccination initiation and completion rates in the U.S. was accepted for an oral presentation at the upcoming 2017 American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting in November in Atlanta! I'm really looking forward to the opportunity to share my research and network with like-minded professionals. Not to mention, I'm going to try and squeeze in a visit to Emory!! Since, I'll applying for doctoral programs in the upcoming application cycle, this couldn't have come at a better time!! 

I also had a great weekend! We went to The Village Museum for 6500 TSH (~ $3) to learn about Tanzanian tribal culture, history, and housing. We also enjoyed a traditional dance performance for 2000 TSH ( < $1). I also bought a lot of souvenirs at the end :)

On Sunday, we took a 30 minute boat to a nearby island, Bongoyo for 20,000 TSH (~$10). There was additional fees such as entry to the island and Marine Reservation fee but I don't remember the specifics. I believe we paid close to 70,000 TSH total (~ $30). We arrived on the island around 10:00AM and left around 4:30PM. While we were there we rented a huge umbrella, woven beach blanket, and chairs for 5000 TSH (~ $2.50), snorkeled for 5000 TSH (~ $2.50) (Sidenote: I don't swim well so this was a huge personal accomplishment), walked/hiked the island trails and relaxed on the beach. It was much a much needed trip after an emotional week.

Lastly, I had a few rough days with the food last week but I think I've been managing okay. I have GERD (or acid reflux), for me, triggered by fried and greasy foods, which is how I would describe 85% of the food here. Even with taking my prescribed medication, it was still pretty bad and because of it I was not sleeping well. But I've resorted to eating bland foods like white rice and frozen veggies until I can figure out something else. #smallvictories

Despite my minor frustrations, I'm still happy to be here and apparently still experiencing culture shock. It really helps to receive emails and texts from my friends, families, and professors -  so keep 'em coming!