Saturday, October 20, 2007

"Autumn" in Atlanta

I had a couple weeks in Atlanta in October between getting back from Tanzania and leaving for Madagascar - time to try to scramble and get work done! I was amazed that the Madagascar trip actually came together, given the extraordinarily brief time (2 weeks) I had to put it together. It always takes me a day or two to get back in the swing of things at work after a trip, but I actually got a lot done. So, not too many pictures, but I managed to get some fun into the weekends!
Ed and I went to the zoo one gorgeous afternoon - I have taken far too many pictures at zoos since I was six years old, but at least they're digital now, and I won't bore you with many. :)Ed making friends with a goat at the petting zoo.
My favorite was the joey poking his head out of his mother's pouch - I had never seen it before - how funny!
We also carved pumpkins with some friends, since I usually have a pumpkin carving party and was going to miss Halloween. Here are the pumpkins we carved - mine and Ed's is on the left. The one on the right is a bat.
And us with our kitty cat pumpkin - don't you love the ears? Between the two of us, we have three cats, so it's quite appropriate! (The cats haven't been introduced yet, but I'm sure there will be plenty of growling and hissing at first.)
I'm actually writing this from Madagascar. I'm here for the Measles Malaria Campaign - a group of donors and the government of Madagascar have collaborated to try to give every child under 5 a mosquito net, a measles vaccination, vitamin A, and worm medicine within a week-long period. I'm here as an campaign monitor, especially for the net distribution. I've spent the past couple days meeting with national malaria control program, Canadian and American Red Cross, USAID, UNICEF, and WHO folks about campaign monitoring and the post-campaign evaluation. It has been fun to be a part of - I've been glad to plug in and help wherever needed (and have a chance to influence the process in the direction I'd like to see it go). It's sort of strange to be "the CDC rep". Starting tomorrow, I'll be traveling with the WHO malaria rep to the region of Menabe to drop in on distribution posts all along the way and see how they're doing. I think it will be very cool!
I get back to the US November 2nd, and then go to the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, where I have a poster to present about the results of the campaign evaluation in Niger.
I'm finally back in Atlanta the week after that for a couple weeks, and then after Thanksgiving am going back to Cameroon for the dedication of the Vute New Testament (the one my parents worked on) in the village I grew up in (Yoko). I can't wait!!
So, in 2007, I will have been on 7 trans-Atlantic trips (5 work, 2 personal) to 5 different countries, 4 of them for the first time. According to my calculations, I'll have over 200,000 frequent flier miles at the end of this year. Platinum status is nice - getting a free breakfast and a nap in the lounge in Paris was a treat, and it means I can take more for my family when I go back to Cameroon! I don't know how sustainable this amount of travel is for a long time, but for now I'm loving it!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Fun news!

Being in Atlanta more this summer gave me time to get to know and start dating a terrific guy! We've been "official" now for a little over a month, and are having such a wonderful time together (even though I was gone for three weeks of that month!).
His name is Ed, he goes to my church, and he's an engineer for Georgia Tech - he's brilliant, athletic, musical.... and incredibly good to me. We have such a great time just being together!
We took a couple days to go down to Florida and visit my friend Lee after I got back from Tanzania. The weather was fabulous, and I wanted to share a few pictures.
We sat up on the tower with Lee the evening we got there and watched the sunset, but didn't stop talking in time to actually get a sunset picture. The next day, we went sea kayaking...cycled to the next town over for brunch at a French cafe....
swam in the perfect water....and hung out with Lee. She had previously given me a stunt kite flying lession, so I got to do a little more, and she taught Ed, who was a very fast learner. Talk about a fun filled day!I didn't want to leave to go back to work, but I'm heading out to Madagascar again in mid October and have a lot to get done between now and then!


I'm going to combine my two Zanzibar weekends into one blog entry - it was just fabulous and I'm so glad I got to go. Zanzibar is a two hour "speed-ferry" ride from Dar Es Salaam. I stayed in a cute little hotel called the Shangani Hotel (
So, Zanzibar is probably most famous for spices, although most spices grown there are now consumed locally (yum!) and cloves are the main export crop. You can take a spice tour and see the spices grown - cardamom, turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, etc - these are nutmeg and mace, part of the same fruit.
Zanzibar is also probably the most famous and influential of the islands on the Swahili Coast, and was actually part of the Oman Empire, and was governed by the Sultans of Oman. The culture is a mix of African, Arab, and Indian, as is the architecture. The carved doors are exquisite!
Dhows - these traditional sailboats with characteristic triangular sails, were once used to sail up and down the coasts for trade from India to Arabia and down the east coast of Africa.
I was most excited to go snorkeling! My snorkel and mask had been used in the Caribbean and Pacific, and now got to see the Indian (yes, I take my own mask and snorkel with me anywhere there's a coast line).

Absolutely perfect water!!

I went on a dolphin tour where they take you out on a boat to look for the pods of dolphins that swin around the south tip of the island, and then let you get in the water. Very cool!The thing that amused me most was that crabs swim - they look like they're waving to you - I thought they were quite funny little things!I went on a couple trips that were just to snorkel, and I'm figuring out how to use the waterproof camera. There were some pretty amazing fish! These blue tangs should look familiar to any "Finding Nemo" fan.There is a forest preserve in the center of the island called Jozani, that houses many of the islands Red Colobus monkeys, a species that exists only only on Zanzibar. These are extremely tolerant of humans and practically ignore you.All in all, two wonderful weekends!!!


I spent a weekend before Kenya and a week after in Tanzania - I managed to spend both weekends in Zanzibar, and spent the week meeting with colleagues based in Tanzania about several different projects. Dar Es Salaam is right on the coast, and a fairly modern city. I started out in a beautiful hotel overlooking the ocean called Sea Cliff. The rooms were just spectacular!The grounds were lush and gorgeous, and overlooking the ocean. The second weekend, I headed to Zanzibar early Saturday morning and didn't return until Sunday evening. When my taxi driver picked me up on Sunday, he told me the hotel had burned down, and I thought he was playing a joke on me until I saw it! This was the picture of the blaze on the front page of the newspaper! And this is the back of the hotel, taken looking toward the spot the first shot was taken from. Tragic! Fortunately, no one was hurt, and the room my things were in was mostly untouched, so except for smelling a little smoky, my things were OK. I'm very fortunate!!
So I had to change hotels, and stayed at the Kilimanjaro Kempinski ( It's unbelievable, and may be one of the best hotels in East Africa. I don't know who managed to negotiate a US government rate with them!! I won't bore you with the many pictures I took - but this is the view from the infinity pool on the third floor overlooking the harbor. It was such a treat to go for a swim!

Wrapping up the project in Kisumu

I went back to Kisumu, Kenya for two weeks in September to wrap up the project there that I had been working on this year. It was so much fun to be back! I really enjoy working with my Kenyan colleagues there, who are now old friends, and Kisumu itself feels like a home away from home.I went to the Yacht Club with two of the CDC families one evening, and there was a whole family of hippos cavorting by the shore in the sunset light. It was a lot of fun to watch, and I got some great video.
I also got to take my entire study staff out to lunch at a place called Tilapia Beach, which makes the best fish I have ever tasted anywhere. They have the morning's catch on a rack, and you select the fish you want, and if you want it fried or stewed. It may not look pretty, but the Luo know how to cook fish!

We all ate tons of fish along with our ugali and mboga (corn meal cake and greens). It was terrific! The people below are the head laboratorian, the pharmacy tech, a compliance monitor, and a nurse.

We took a study staff picture beside the lake to commemorate. Every single staff member was able to be there, so this picture is really special!

Chris Odero was my co-coordinator and is one of the world's neatest people. He is extremely bright, motivated, organized, a strong Christian, and terrific to work with. I have been going to church with him while I'm there. We got the study analyzed and started writing the paper together. One of the most rewarding parts of this trip was teaching him everything I knew about the statistical programming language we use (SAS), and then calling him the next week and hearing that he was using what he had learned to analyze the results of a different study. :) He's usually sort of a home body, but I convinced him to come out with me my last night in Kisumu.


In August, I was pretty much grounded to Atlanta, which helped me get a lot of work done and settle into my new place. Oh - that's right! When I got back to Atlanta from India, I decided to move to a new place, the next day heard from a friend about the condo she was trying to rent out, looked at it that day, told her I'd take it the next, and she and some other friends helped me move the following day! I really like my new place - I don't have a roommate, and I have space to put everything where I want it. It really feels like me!

The next weekend, I went to Nashville to hang out with my best friend from residency, Sherstin, and her boyfriend James. Some of you have heard about their struggles this year - they were in a terrible accident this spring in Colorado. Sherstin is getting close to normal again, although James still has at least another surgery and still has a ways to go. He is at home and still much fun to hang out with! Here are Sherstin and James.
And me and Sherstin - together again! For Labor Day weekend, I went to Kentucky with my friend Meredith, to spend the weekend with her family at the lake. I tried water skiing for the first time, and under Meredith's patient tutelage, got up for a few seconds at a time! I think I'll do better next time. I also tried tubing, which was a blast. Being little, you don't have a lot of weight to stay on the tube when you hit a wave, but I manged to cling to the tube for dear life unless I was launched into the air. :) It was incredibly fun!!
Meredith and her nephew clowning around.