Sunday, January 31, 2010

Catching up - Christmas 2009

We spent Christmas this year in Seattle, which was poignant and wonderful in so many ways. My parents are home from Cameroon and spent December and January in Seattle, Ed's parents also joined us for Christmas and celebrated their 40th anniversary and Ed's dad's birthday with us, we had absolutely spectacular weather, and my dear grandmother, one of the kindest and most patient women ever to walk the planet, who had been doing increasingly poorly over the last couple years, ended her journey on this earth. It was quite a Christmas!
Ed and I stayed with my cousin Jennie and her husband Jay. Jay has been learning to sail, and took us out for a spin on Lake Union.
It was a breath-takingly beautiful evening!
Ed looks cold, but is having a blast!
Ed and I with his brother and parents at the top of one of Seattle's historic buildings, on one of the spectacular blue sky days we had. We had a great time showing them around Seattle, and the weather cooperated beautifully!
We usually have Christmas morning at Uncle Ted and Aunt Cathy's, and have a few small gifts to open. Here my dad, sister Laura, and her husband Greg are enjoying a calendar made by my cousin Jennie. I usually have Christmas with Ted and Cathy and their immediate  family. It was great for my parents, Ed's family, and Laura and Greg to join us!

 We have afternoon family Christmas all together. We had decided some time ago to have Christmas in the activity room of my grandmother's nursing home, hoping she could join us for the festivities. She was no longer able to sit  up, communicate, or respond much by that point, but we took turns taking a few minutes away in small groups to sit with her, sing Christmas carols, talk to her, and hug her. I can't imagine a more fitting way for it to be!

One Thwing family tradition is Jesus' birthday cake - which I made this year. My Aunt Cathy always narrates, though - we light one candle for every family member and guest present.
 And we have our family white elephant, which alwas generates loads of merriment and good-spirited gift stealing - here Ed's mom opens a promising-looking bag...
I won't bore you with loads of family pics - just a few choice ones..
Here are my dad (far left) and his 5 brothers. He's number two. 
 And me and Ed  - awww...
 My parents, Ed's parents, Ed and I, Greg and Laura, and Warren.
 The extended Thwing family - 34 of us present this year, though a few couldn't make it. We are turning into quite a crowd!
The day after Christmas, the Thwing cousins went up to Mt. Rainier for a play in the snow day, and again, it was spectacular! Ed's family came with us  - Floridians in the snow! I think the mountain made a very good showing for them!
Cousins playing in the snow and taking pictures - and shots. :) 

 Ed has no patience for this and starts up the mountain - the summit doesn't look that far!

 And takes the fast way back down!
 Can I tell you how much I love this picture! I don't think I have ever seen Rainier look so gorgeous!
 On our way back down, we saw two foxes - one red
 and one black - very cool! 
A look back at the mountain in the late afternoon sun... almost Alpenglow 
 Dinner at Uncle Bill and Aunt Lola's in Puyallup on the way  back
 On the evening of December 28, my grandmother went to her heavenly home. That night, we had planned to celebrate Ed's dad's birthday, and had a surprise celebration for their 40th anniversary, which had been a few days before Christmas. It ended up being completely appropriate. :) We had reserved a private room at one of Seattle's very nice steakhouses and had a fabulous dinner, and celebrated life and love and family!
 Ed ordered some crystal wine glasses engraved for them, but they didn't get there in time, so we got a pair of wine glasses at Crate and Barrel and had everyone sign them with a sharpie - Ed's mom and dad examining their "gift". :)
The end of 2009 was very quiet - Ed and I extended our tickets to stay in Seattle a few extra days, and laid low. 2010 is going to be an action-packed year, so that's OK!

Friday, January 01, 2010

Catching up on 2009 - Senegal survey December

I was back in Senegal in December 2-21 to get a national survey going - in June and October of this year, the government and international donors distributed 2.3 million insecticide-treated bednets for free in a nationwide campaign (example below that I slept under) to children under 5 years. These nets are one of the most effective ways of preventing malaria that we have, and this could have a major impact on the incidence of malaria in Senegal. My job was to design and implement a survey to determine what the actual household possession and usage of these nets is at this point, and if the campaign reached its targets. We did them on a PDA equipped with GPS.
I couldn't complain about the view from my hotel in Dakar - off the northern side of the Dakar peninsula is what used to be the fishing village of Ngor, with the Hotel Ngor rising above it. There is a wonderful little bay.

Team picture below: I brought one CDC colleague with me, David Townes, former ER doc in Seattle before he joined CDC and the malaria branch (white guy to the left). Robert Perry, to the right, is the CDC resident advisor to the malaria program. The Senegalese group we worked with, CRDH, is led by Salif Ndiaye, a really sharp, excellent guy, and others on staff that we worked with include Ghislain Mbep (a Cameroonian), Alpha Diallo (from Guinea Bissau), Bakar, and Diarra. I was constantly so impressed with them! They did all the logistics, hiring all the interviewers, and advised with questionnaire development.

During training week, showing Ghislain and one of interviewers how to use the GPS program.

During the week of training, I totally fell in love with my team - they are such an awesome bunch of people - they work so hard and their questions during training demonstrated what very sharp people they are!

After training week, we started the survey - 8 census tracts in each of the 14 regions of the country - and I traveled through 9 of the regions during the 6 days of supervision we did - this was the land cruiser that was my home for week.

Ghislain, who traveled with me, and Mamadou, our driver, who has been driving with USAID for over 30 years and knows Senegal "like the back of his hand". More specifically, he knows people everywhere and is fluent in 7 languages, so he can ask for directions anywhere!

Crossing the Gambia River - on a ferry very much like this one.

I discovered that I really like dibiterie - you tell them how much meat you want. The price per kg is written on the wall, and hack up however much sheet you ordered into small chunks, mix it with oil, salt, pepper, good French mustard, and onions and through it on the grill. Yum!
We met up with a good sized Senegalese community development association that has a variety of projects, including a sesame oil plant. Here is unripe sesame in pods in the field.

A bag of fresh sesame seed
Run it through this room of machines

And you get this finished bottle of high quality sesame oil. They were even recently certified organic!

I spent a lot of time waiting  - here with Diara in front of a store in Bounkiling.
The requisite group shot with tons of cute kids
But I enjoy it when the curiosity dies down and you can get individual shots - this little guy is a cutie!

This little girl is 16 months old. Her mother, holding her, says she sleeps under a net (hanging behind them) that she got during the campaign.

Here, one of my interviewers is filling out the questionnaire about bednets, while the lady of the house describes their nets and who uses them.

I thought this was interesting - the regional hospital publishes all the prices for every test and service offered outside the hospital.

In the region of Ziguinchor, canoe is a critical means of transportation.

Making Senegalese tea - Chinese gunpowder green tea, mint, and lots of sugar!! And then you pour it back and forth until it froths. You drink it after meals and at any time you can think of a reason to drink tea.

While the cities are sizeable and Dakar is very cosmopolitan, many people still live in small villages such as this.

The quintessential scene in Senegal - a baobab towering over a cluster of huts.

Another look at a baobab.
The baobabs were in fruit - the flesh is very mild and is thought to have a number of healing properties. They like to make juice out of it.

In the southeast corner of  Senegal, there is scrub forest - we were fortunate to see a giant ground hornbill, a bird i have previously only seen in zoos. It's bigger than a large turkey, and has a huge long bill.

In Diankhe Makha with one team, quite a distance off the beaten track, having dinner with the team. They loved the visual of my white hand and their dark hands and got a kick out of taking this picture. :)

The same team, after beaming and consolidating the mapping data on their PDAs, chuckling at the households the PDA has selected for them to interview. In this area, their census tract was made of 7 tiny villages each separated from each other by several miles - quite difficult to cover in a day!

Another team with their vehicle - Senegalese women are gorgeous!

The survey should be done the first week of January - hope it finishes well!